The idea, apparently, is to push the product to younger consumers who normally drink cocktails. The website is even more focused on that, featuring some of the best looking men and women I’ve ever seen in wine marketing. It’s all beaches and bikinis and hanging out, about as far from traditional wine as possible. In fact, these are the kinds of models that appear in fashion magazines, not on websites plugging flavored wine.
And this begs the question of why the product is called Friends Fun Wine, since it goes out of its way to be everything that “real” wine isn’t – younger, very informal, and featuring flavors like coconut chardonnay. My guess? That as beleaguered as the wine category is these days, there is still a certain cachet to it. And the company behind Friends Fun Wine wants to take advantage of that cachet: “Look, here is fun wine you can drink that tastes good but isn’t that old fashioned stuff that your parents like.”
The point here is not that people shouldn’t drink coconut chardonnay wine. The only rule in wine is to drink what you want, but to be willing to try something else. Rather, why isn’t the traditional wine business marketing wine to younger consumers, using the same – but coconut chardonnay-less – approach? That wine can be fun, and that it isn’t necessarily old fashioned.
Video courtesy of Advantis via YouTube, using a Creative Commons license
This week’s wine news: An airline investigates wine thefts, plus the growth of direct to consumer wine shipping and a plea for more truthful wine advertising
• Missing airline wine: Employees of Cathay Pacific airlines are being investigated for stealing sparkling wine, as well as ice cream and cutlery. The story is vague about what was actually stolen, and this may be more about a labor dispute than theft, but the point is well taken. As we’ve seen on the blog many times, if you’re going to commit a crime with wine, steal the good stuff. What’s the point of swiping the wretched plonk that those of us in economy have to drink?
• Direct to consumers: Tom Mullen, writing on Forbes.com, gives a level-headed account of the history of direct-to-consumer wine sales in the U.S. – how it became possible for most of us to buy wine directly from a winery, bypassing retailers and distributors. The piece is a bit long, but any mainstream article that calls U.S. wine laws “sometimes archaic” and spends time discussing the history of Missouri wine is well worth reading.
• More truth, less artisan: “I see far too many industrial brands calling themselves ‘artisanal,’ ‘family-owned’ or claiming their wines are ‘hand-crafted’ when they are anything but.” No, that’s not the WC ranting, but Dwight Furrow in Edible Arts. His argument is passionate but logical: The “issue isn’t whether there is an exact cut off point for what counts as artisanal. What is obvious is that wineries with annual case production levels over 50,000—enough to supply large retail stores—are unlikely to use artisanal methods. To claim they do is just false advertising.” His point matters more than ever as younger people, who are more sophisticated about advertising than their parents and grandparents, may be turning away from wine because they see those claims as hooey.
This 21-second black and white ad, apparently shot in 1964, exhibits every failing of TV wine advertising for as long as it has existed. It’s phony and pretentious; about the only thing missing is the hot chick. And it would be snotty even if it didn’t pitch Thunderbird, best known as the drink of choice for people who desperately need high octane at little cost. My favorite part? That the ad calls Thunderbird an aperitif. Which, of course, it isn’t, and is a concept that few consumers 50 years ago would have understood. But it sounds classy, so why not?
Mason, according to many reports, was often short of money, and did this for the cash. You can sort of tell that by the look on his face as he tastes the product.
Know that I haven’t watched the game since 1986, which was more or less the last time I got paid to watch it. Know, too, that I have tried desperately to raise the quality of TV wine commercials over the blog’s history, and to little avail. Rose and local wine were easy, compared to TV wine ads. For the most part, they’re still as awful as they’ve ever been – not very creative or clever while reinforcing every annoying wine stereotype.
Hopefully, the Yellow Tail ad will be different. For one thing, the company went to a lot of trouble to advertise, piecing together time in 70 local markets because it couldn’t buy a national ad; a beer company bought those rights for all booze ads for the game. Second, it is spending what the normally authoritative Ad Age reports as more than $5 million for a 30-second spot – the equivalent of some 60,000 cases of Yellow Tail.
? Is the world upside down? The Wine Spectator ?s James Laube writes a mostly favorable profile of Bonny Doon ?s irrepressible Randall Grahm. Why is this so odd? For one thing, Grahm has never had any use for the Winestream Media, scores, the kinds of wines it likes, and how the system works. For another, he once wrote of Laube: ?I’d rather have a frontal lobotomy than a Laube in front of me.” Laube mostly let bygones be bygones: ?The latest wines are striking for their structure and individuality. Though, in true Winestream Media fashion, only one of the four wines reviewed in the piece scored higher than a 90. Which, given my experience with Grahm ?s wines, once again emphasizes how useless scores are.
? Ban ?em all! A British doctors ? group wants to phase out all alcohol advertising as part of its latest campaign to tackle the country ?s drinking problem. The Alcohol Health Alliance says children need to be protected from booze ads; hence its plan to restrict them to newspapers and magazines with an adult readership. Eventually, all ads and sponsorships for alcohol products would be banned. This is an amazing proposal from the country that gave the world civil liberties in the Magna Carta, and raises all sorts of constitutional questions. I wonder: What would Horace Rumpole, whose love of cheap wine was surpassed only by his respect for Magna Carta, ”our ancient rights of freedom,’ ? say to the doctors?
? Alabama wineries urge boycott: Not as much good news in Alabama, where a state legislative committee killed a bill that would have allowed the state's 14 wineries to distribute their wine without a distributor. The bill was apparently tabled at the behest of the state's beer distributors, who were terrified that any change in the three-tier system would cost them money. Like they don't already make enough. The wineries' response? A boycott of the state's national beer brands, including Budweiser, Miller and Coors, to protest the decision. They have the Wine Curmudgeon's support.
? Pricier California wine? Silicon Valley Bank, which is supposed to know about these things, predicts that U.S. consumers will have to pay more for domestic wine, settle for lower quality, or buy cheaper imports. Its annual report on the wine business says there is a serious shortage of California grapes, which will last for a while and kick prices higher.
What struck the Wine Curmudgeon about the Yellow Tail ad is not its efficacy, but how wine advertising has stuck to the same theme for decades and decades and decades — that the best way to convince Americans to drink wine is to show hip and with-it young people drinking wine.
Don’t believe me? Then check out this Mateus Rose commercial from 1971 (courtesy of robatsea at YouTube). Save for the white pants and the 20th century production values, there isn’t much difference in approach. Whether that’s good or bad is for you to decide.