Murphy's law: if it's mild, it's probably bitter

PETER YORK ON ADS; No 171: MURPHY'S STOUT
Click to follow
The Independent Culture
The TV series Ballykissangel has a lot to answer for - including, one strongly suspects, the new campaign for Murphy's stout. It's different from the first which, while pressing all the positive buttons about Irishness, came over as somehow reasonably modern, towny and credible.

The new campaign has the same presenter - young, black Irish looks, dark button-down shirt like a Mr TV-acceptable from the Edinburgh Festival celtic fringe comedy roster: but the feel is different. This is mythic Irish life - how are things in Glochamorra? - and the country pub setting seems lit for warmth. The extras all smile themselves silly.

Our presenter is at the bar with a smiling girl and the whole thing looks somehow ... story-boarded. In comes a man so centrally cast as an Irish pub character he could reasonably burst into song. Soaked, he goes into a routine about it raining cats and dogs. He's handed a Murphy's while the extras gear up for banter - "Is it wet out there, Eamon?" Then comes a set-piece with a wet dog which dries itself over the complainant to widespread applause.

This ushers in the brand-positioning statement, all about mild-taste- despite-ethnic-stout-character. But they've changed it, made it more oblique: "Unlike the Murphy's he's very bitter." So comic complaints contrast with Murphy's mildness, which is really no contrast at all.

The earlier round had the presenter as an outsider, a bit of a loner, suffering reverses which caused him to say that like the Murphy's, he wasn't bitter. It sounds like Eng Lit analysis but every word or implied relationship in a TV campaign is subject to more research than John Major's shirt-sleeved appearances. Perhaps rather literal-minded research suggested the presenter was a miserablist, a bit never-alone-with-a-Strand.

This time I suggest the research should focus on whether the coal fire the dog lies before is perceived as getting its glow from gas.

Comments