New Stella Viral – perfect lesson fodder!

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The new Stella Artois 4% – Smooth Originals viral ad campaign features three short films based on familiar Hollywood/TV productions but done in the laid-back style of the French Nouvelle Vague cinema.

So you’ve got your intertextual linkage, the forms and conventions of classic European cinema explicitly compared with the forms of conventions of your modern Hollywood blockbuster and/or quality TV drama (24). You can also compare these (from Stella’s new ad agency Mother London) to the previous campaigns – for example, the Italian Neorealism-style black and white ads.

That’s the how, at least part of the media language/forms and conventions part. Then there’s the why, which involves the reason-for-being of viral ad campaigns. In an atmosphere of moral panic about cheap booze and binge drinking, Stella are promoting a slightly-less-potent brew by focusing on the idea of smoothness. They’re perhaps harking back to an era when pubs didn’t habitually offer 5% strong lagers, and trying to appeal to customers who are used to getting hammered more quickly and complain that weaker beers lack “bite”. Then again, maybe they’re after a different class of customer altogether.

Bypassing normal media outlets, Stella are relying on the cool appeal of the ads to see them circulated widely. They offer them on the website as embeddable videos and free downloads in a variety of formats, and they’re encouraging people to share.

That’s forms and conventions part 2 (the viral video), with a sideswipe at Institutions, and Audiences.

Representation is an interesting one here: there are a variety of representations of an idea of “Europe” in opposition to those “American” texts, as well as a selection of men and women in different gender roles. In the version of 8 Mile (Huit Kilometres), our hero isn’t a rapper but a jazz bar intellectual. Interestingly, the jazz club looks smoky in the background without anybody appearing to be smoking an actual cigarette – they make a joke of this with a guy pretending to smoke an invisible cigarette. Meanwhile, the women – including one sultry brunette – are decorative observers.

(In most alcohol advertising, men are privileged as cool sophisticates, while the women are either “the prize” or the “party girl.” Is this any different?)

They’re also representing alcohol itself – which has been getting a pretty bad press lately. The beer in the ads looks cool and smooth, attractively presented in lovely glasses. Do we ever see anyone drink one, though? It’s pushed across the bar, sitting on a table. Smoky without smoking, drink without drinking. It’s delayed gratification all around. What’s the sound of one hand clapping? (You’ll see the answer in the jazz club.)

The accompanying posters (example above) pay homage to classic French film posters (I’ve got a few dotted around the classroom, postcard size).

This is a really interesting and very well executed campaign with loads of associated contexts and debates, so I expect we’ll be talking about it in class… whenever you’re ready with that damn coursework. The Guardian discusses it here.

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