Few stories in advertising are as depressing as that of Carlsberg over the last few years. Ditching what by any standard was a world class tagline, and replacing it with one that is pretty average is not a good move.
Admittedly it's not as calamitous as HSBC getting rid of what, ironically, you could argue was probably the best tagline in the world. Certainly in the world of finance by a country mile.
This week I saw something that made me start to think that Carlsberg has started to pick up again, a great piece of work. Sadly, it was then followed by seeing two pieces of poor work that completely undermined any positive feeling that might have given me.
So let's start with the very good:
A video where they test friendships by asking a friend to come rescue them in the middle of the night with some money. The setup is excellent, the barrage of creepy and weird events is well thought out, and the reveal is played brilliantly. Although for me saying "Probably the best friend in the world." works much much better than "Standing up for a friend - That calls for a Carlsberg."
It's so well done that I was thinking much more positively about the brand.
Then I saw the next ad on TV.
It starts with a reasonable enough premise. A typical 'lad-esque' desire to get away from a female aimed spa and have a beer. Nothing great, but the humour of the old Carlsberg ads always worked round that.
From there it goes downhill. It's not funny. It tries so hard to be a witty rip off of the Great Escape, but the bright sterile production and iffy acting just dampens the moments that could have been funny.
90 seconds to link a weak ad with a tagline that doesn't really work. That's a long way down for the brand.
Then today I saw this next piece via Simon Darwell-Taylor of Here Be Monsters:
This time it's a riff on Spartacus, using twitter and an evil boss. The 1970's archetypal evil boss caricature can sometimes be funny or interesting, not here. Again the bland bright sterile production drains the life away from the ad. I imagine they are trying to contrast that with the green of Carlsberg, but it just ruins the look of the ads and makes them feel completely vacant and unappealing.
The acting is worse than the first ad. The boss tries to overact, and does a reasonable Bishop Brenan style job, but everyone else is awful.
Then the ending. I mean seriously. I have seen some shitty, faux-matey, cheesy ad endings, but this one is in a whole other league of crap. To top it off the tagline comes in and just compounds the awfulness. Maybe saying 'That calls for a Carlsberg' might work when the ad preceding it is engaging and absorbing but when the ad makes you embarrassed on behalf of the brand it just feels horrifically grating.
My problem with the line is that is tries too hard. It's desperately trying to make itself into a saying in popular culture, but it's too bland and contrived to ever really succeed. Where as 'probably the best' felt natural and clever, 'That calls' just feels bland and flat. In some senses it's almost galling, "You should buy our product now!"
Let's look at some You Tube comments shall we:
The worst carlsberg ad ever. And cringe-factor 100% with the "Spartacus" line at the very end. Seen better acting in El Dorado 30 years ago. Awful.
By far, one of the worst ads ive seen in a long time.
What REALLY galls though. Is that the Spa ad is produced by the same agency that made the excellent Wreck-It Ralph 8-bit takeover among other decent pieces, so they are clearly capable of much better.
The brand and the agency both can do, and deserve so much better than the second two pieces. They deserve to have work with the quality of the first video in everything they do. The budget being spent is worthy of something that will really get people to respond, something that looks pleasantly distinctive, not that it was shot on a 1990's low budget sci-fi movie set.
Come on agency, come on Carlsberg. You've shown us just this week that you can do a hundred times better than this shit.