Simply Red

“Hooray beer!”

Red Stripe unleashes its first TV branding campaign with that battle cry, echoing the sentiments of beer drinkers everywhere in celebrating beer for beer’s sake.

While the tagline is simple, the path to it was more involved. The BBDO team began with the basic goal of “keeping the Jamaican-ness of Red Stripe without the stereotype of the Rastafarian,” says creative director Gerry Graf. But Graf and fellow CD Harold Einstein also wanted to convey humor and the sense of pride inherent in the brand.

The solution was to have a character, a Jamaican man, serve as an ambassador/spokesman. Done up in a tuxedo and a sash emblazoned with the brand name, he would extol the virtues of Red Stripe-an approach Graf compares to the familiar low-budget commercials in which CEOs offer awkward but amusing messages about their companies.

The resulting six spots broke last week in markets in the South and may roll out nationally. In place of references to spring water and hops is the dominant refrain “Red Stripe! It’s beer!” followed by the “Hooray beer!” tag, spoken in the full, moderately Jamaican-accented voice of the spokesman, played by Dorrel Salmon.

In one spot, the spokesman stands in front of a small, corrugated-tin shack. “Red Stripe. It’s beer! Beer that celebrates the inner you,” he says, and then asks a man next to him, “What’s your inner you?” To the spokesman’s overacted surprise, the man’s “inner you” turns out to be a Jamaican woman in a purple head scarf. “Hooray beer!” she chimes in.

In another spot, the spokesman grooves to reggae music. A man tentatively follows his lead, and a Red Stripe gets him in the groove. “Red Stripe and reggae,” says the spokesman. “Helping our white friends dance for over 70 years!”

The sense of glee is meant to be infectious. Says Graf, “It’s like the people at Red Stripe are just happy that they made beer.”

The plan only included three TV spots-“Inner You,” “Dancin’ ” and “Parade,” in which a reggae band roams the streets, distracting people from their jobs. Some radio spots the agency had already produced would air in support. But director Marcos Siega suggested translating some of the radio scripts to TV. “It would be so easy,” he says. “They didn’t require a lot of visual explanation.”

In one of the added commercials, the spokesman says, “Red Stripe. The beer in the short, stubby, ugly bottle. You, sir,” he then says to a man next to him at the bar. “Would you say you’re ugly? You are very ugly! Here, hold this Red Stripe. Look, you are beautiful!”

With no traditional art director on the team, Siega was called upon to create the visual environment; he dreamed up the shack setting, among other things. He also wanted to preserve the campaign’s simplicity by using as few camera angles as possible. “I didn’t want to do anything to take away from the joke,” he says.

Siega’s biggest task, though, was casting the spokesman. Sessions in New York, Los Angeles and Miami failed to produce the “endearing, tough but friendly” person they needed, and the team was set to head to Jamaica when they found Salmon, a professional musician with no previous commercial experience.

He was perfect since “bad acting is part of the charm,” Siega says. Still, one problem remained: Salmon had long dreadlocks that evoked the Rasta image. But he didn’t wear them for religious reasons, and had a worthwhile reason to shear them off. “Money,” says Siega.

Red Stripe
Agency: BBDO, New York
Creative Directors/Copywriters: Gerry Graf Harold Einstein
Agency Producer: Elise Greiche
Production Company: Hungry Man
Director: Marcos Siega
Editors: Ian Mackenzie Jun Diaz