When wacky advertising turns out to be TOO wacky: earlier today, we were taken by the story of octogenarian Ethel Goldschmidt and her beer company, Ethel's Brew. But it seems Goldschmidt and her company were completely fabricated elements of a make-believe ad campaign by advertising agency DDB, created essentially to tout the company's expertise at successfully being able to make shit up and lie to people about it. It turns out they're very good at it!
According to a press release, DDB took credit for the project saying, "the effort was created to raise awareness of DDB's successful social creativity approach through the case-in-point development of an exceptionally creative brand with only a two-week marketing window and minimal budget." As for the actual product, the beer was contract brewed by French company Brasserie Duyck, and 15,000 units were distributed last week at several hotels, bars and parties throughout the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
"This year in Cannes, instead of just throwing a huge expensive party, we wanted to create something that would be far-reaching, reflective of DDB's creative nature, and showcase the use of social creativity to produce tangible results for a brand in a short two-week time frame," said Amir Kassaei, DDB Worldwide's Chief Creative Officer and the man who came up with this campaign. "Anyone can throw an over-the-top party, but pulling off a brand and product launch on a shoestring budget is a more exciting challenge for our teams."
So to be clear, DDB's "creative nature" comes across as a smug attempt at self-congratulatory pranking? Is it that they want to be more like the Yes Men? We suppose they are really good at selling products when the products don't exist. But just because you're good at sending out press releases and email blasts for fake companies whose backstories are really interesting doesn't guarantee you'll be great at doing so with real companies—you know, ones who don't have the marketable advantage of 88-year-old grandmothers from Williamsburg pursuing lifelong dreams of becoming beer barons.
Here's was the email we were sent from Ethel's grandson, Seth Goldschmidt:
Hope that all is well! Check out Ethel's Brew (ethelsbrew.com), created by my 88-year-old grandmother - the eponymous Ethel - who is a Williamsburg native and is launching a beer brand that all started in our basement! She’s got the personality for a grandmother and is loving all of the attention her launch of her new brew.
Several links to websites were included with the pitch, as well as a phone number for Seth—when we called it, it went straight to a voicemail purportedly left by Ethel.
Here's how Chuck Brymer, CEO of DDB Worldwide, explained making up an 88-year-old woman as a way to pat themselves on the back: "We wanted to do something unexpected. Like take an 88-year-old woman and have her create demand by engaging with consumers with unpredictable and funny messages on Twitter and Facebook. Or have her make a low-budget home video introducing Ethel's Brew in her outdated, 70's decor living room."
DDB did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the ruse.