Monday, August 20, 2012

Some early advertising memories.

When I was 22 I worked for a short while on the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer account. This was back in 1980, decades before Pabst became the ironic hipster brew it has now become.

I'll admit, I can't quite accept doing things for ironic purposes except being ironic. I don't understand ironic clothing, ironic bicycles, ironic food and drink, ironic music, ironic tattoos.

I always drank beer based on one of four reasons. One, I liked the taste. Two, it was local in some place I wasn't and I wanted to try it. Three, it offered a cheap way to get drunk. Or four, I ordered something else and the waiter heard me wrong. (On Saturday night, I ordered a Peroni and got brought a Corona. The difference was too negligible to me to make a fuss.)

In any event, I was 22 and working on Pabst. Pabst at the time was about a dime less a six-pack than premium beers like Bud, Schlitz and Miller. It was a blue collar beer for, in the words of Sheldon Leonard, "guys who like to get drunk fast."

We had decided to do research--I guess today we would call it ethnographic, so we flew down, about six of us, including the CEO of the agency, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to do it. Rather than sit in a sterile focus group facility, we would go to bars and drink with students from University of North Carolina, Duke or slightly further afield, NC State.

I was the ringer in the field, being the same age or younger than most of the kids.

I don't remember much about the evening except for two things or three. First, I got drunker than I had ever been in my life and I haven't been that drunk since. Second I was with the CEO of the agency who was also drunk as a skunk and made an ass of himself. Third, the CEO almost got us killed when he drove us to the hotel after our research and couldn't stay on his side of the double yellow.

Currently Pabst is the 18th best-selling beer in the US, up 16% year over year, selling $204 million of beer. Back in 1980, it was the number two brand in the US.

I'm not sure what any of this means, except this. Pabst will never be ironic to me. No matter how many hipsters wallow in their swill. And in the 32 years since that night I've had exactly one Pabst Blue Ribbon. And even that I couldn't finish.

BTW, the heavy-set black pianist in the opening of the above clip is the great "gut-bucket" barrelhouse impresario Meade "Lux" Lewis. He is wearing two-types of plaid, completely without irony.You could do worse for yourself than downloading some of his work.

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