Peter York On Ads: It's gone all Shoreditch. A rum do, I'd say

Bacardi
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The Independent Online

The girls can do Beyoncé or Mariah Carey. A dark gold wig, some honey-brown thunder-thighs and you're away. A theme makes it so much easier. On the professional party circuit - parties to launch things, parties organised for the media follow-through, their photographs everywhere from Tatler to Now, their gossip-column stories and all the wonderful business of brand consolidation (personal branding's gone a long way: last week I heard Andrew Marr describe himself as a brand - something to do with his ears).

At those sorts of parties there's usually a drinks sponsor who supplies something aspirant - a new Peruvian spirit, say, in a new mix along with some attractive people to serve it to you. They're always hoping that by exposing something fatuous to an early-adopter crowd they'll create the Harvey Wallbanger, the Banana Daiquiri, the Cosmopolitan of the 21st century - something that'll sweep through Croydon theme pubs and Enfield bars, something that'll take Harrogate and Hartlepool by their ears. Something that'll turn into the next best-selling alcopop of choice for a huge range of teenage people - girls especially.

As a drinks brand or a theme-pub chain you measure the success of these innovations by the amount sicked up, the amount of mooning and the local press stories of little affrays. You don't acknowledge it, of course. The 40 or so Home Counties commuter village marketing men and women who run these brands from their tidy office parks will talk about life-enhancing responsible drinking and contributions to charities, but they know what it looks like in Nottingham centre on Friday nights.

A couple of years ago the BBC did a documentary about the Nottingham city centre bar area. The police were against granting any more licences because it made so much distracting work for them, picking kids off the pavement. The doctors were against it, too. But they had a triumphalist London lawyer saying the pub chains could afford people like him and they could run legal rings round the licensing authorities.

The Bacardi Breezer is almost certainly one of the the drinks sicked up by teenage girls in Nottingham city centre over the last five years. But where does it leave the original Bacardi, the amusing 1960s-style white rum in a bottle product? Once Bacardi had Vinnie Jones, it gave them an edge - and they used to play the Hispanic card heavily too; those non-specific Latins certainly know how to enjoy themselves. A latter-day Carmen stood on the bar and sprayed people with drink. Or was that Vinnie? Whatever, it was all fearfully profligate.

But now Bacardi has gone all Shoreditch. The whole thing's much more middle-class, much less wild, much more ironic. (Has someone been leaning on them to tone it down?)

On darkened streets and in Tube trains, bespectacled young people in fancy dress are gathering. You're expecting something like Levis twisty jeans. Here's a man in a furry suit. Here's a couple in Roman centurion outfits. Their city- scape's somewhere young creative advertising people live. And they all pitch up and dance around as if it was PQR's Christmas party in Wardour Street.

"Fun before fashion; the way it should B" is the strapline to this curious commercial. Are they worried that Bacardi's past it on the fashion front and so it's ready for an ironic revival? Are they just urging us to enjoy what we know? Any which way this approach could just wrest Bacardi back from Nottingham to Notting Hill. Pyrrhic victory or what?

Peter@sru.co.uk

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