Anger doesn’t sell gin.

Who would you prefer to talk to at a wedding, an angry thug or a wine bore? I was thinking of this choice whilst watching the new Gordon’s gin advert. In it a stereotypical wine bore complete with big nose, blazer and cravat comes up with a description of his wine whilst his friends fruitly agree. They’re all having a great time until a dishevelled portly man* glares at them, takes a swig from his G&T and then loudly dismisses their chat as ‘pretentious rubbish.’

Perhaps the advert is meant to be in the style of those witty lager ads from the 80s – ‘I bet he drinks Carling Black Label‘ etc. – but here there’s an atmosphere of real menace. He’s not joking, he really wants to start a fight at a wedding. Why does the fat man hate wine drinkers so much? Did his wife run off with Tim Atkin MW? Why is the thin woman attracted to angry gin-swilling men? It makes one want to sidle over to the Chablis drinkers and have what they’re having.

It’s not the first time that Gordon’s have got their advertising wrong. A few years ago they took on Gordon Ramsey as their face just as he was becoming the most exposed man in Britain. So ubiquitous was Ramsey with billboards on every road that visitors from despotic regimes must have assumed that he was Britain’s answer to Colonel Gaddafi. I doubt anyone noticed the gin.

This new Gordon’s ad fails not only because it’s angry, and who wants their drink associated with violence, but also because it’s dated. The wine bore is right out of an 80s lager advert. People nowadays aren’t so embarrassed about talking about wine and wine enthusiasts aren’t likely to be toffs. In fact, Gordon’s rivals, Beefeater, Tanqueray etc, are reaching out to the connoisseurs’ market with special ’boutique’ gins that come with tasting notes flowery enough to make angry men even angrier. Most branded gins are sold partly on their perceived quality, it’s fine for Gordon’s to trade solely on image but then they have to do it with wit and style. Who wants to be associated with the nutter in the corner?

The tag line for this campaign is ‘Gordon’s, Let’s Get Started.’ They make it sound like a threat.

* I wrote this article before I realised that the man with a chip on his shoulder is someone moderately famous, Phil Glenister from TV’s ‘Life on Mars’. Perhaps that explains why the advert is stuck in a timewarp. 

About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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6 Responses to Anger doesn’t sell gin.

  1. worm says:

    Spot on henry – the advert is supposed to make you side with the straight-up bloke but instead just makes you nervous about the chippy gin drinking psychopath who’s about to ruin an otherwise fun garden party! I think the blame lies in the advert’s producers who were aiming for a certain irreverent note but instead went too far and Glenister delivered his lines far too menacingly. Poor show from Gordon’s

  2. Henry says:

    You can see that they were aiming for something like those Paul Hogan Foster’s adverts but ended up with Ray Winstone in Nil by Mouth.

  3. Toby says:

    It is a shambles. Not one sympathetic character, but I liked some of the wine lover’s terminology, didn’t you? I knew just what he was drinking, and, as you say, wanted some for myself.

  4. Henry says:

    That’s just it, they’re not even using pretentious language. Perhaps the fat man would have a point if they were going off on Jilly Goolden-esque flights of fancy.

  5. edwerks says:

    oi, lay off Jilly, you fascist

  6. Pippa says:

    Totally agree with you here, Henry. It is a nasty ad!

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