Music

Country Life's Public Image

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An ad campaign that worked out well:

It has been one of the more unlikely celebrity endorsements; John Lydon, a member of the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, advertising Country Life butter. But it appears to have worked.

Dairy Crest today said the campaign, featuring a spiky-haired Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, dressed in tweeds, had helped lift sales of the brand by 85% in the most recent quarter. Lydon, once better known for sending chills down the spine of middle Englanders, now appears adept at sending them to the chiller cabinet.

I don't know how much of that 85 percent can actually be attributed to the ads. I do know that the campaign is genuinely entertaining—much more so than the Pistols' dimwitted Mountain Dew spots, not to mention the last few PiL records—so I'll praise it anyway. Bravo, butter boys.

Before some Brit John Banzhaf sues Rotten for increasing England's cholesterol counts, I should remind readers of the usual pattern in cases like this. With a familiar product like butter, the general effect of advertising is to make established users switch brands, not to persuade people who had been eating their bread plain all these years that they really should try this newfangled "spread" stuff. Rotten may have changed the way people think about the Country Life brand. He probably hasn't altered their perceptions of butter.

Bonus Johnny Rotten trivia: He's a fan of former Reason editor Virginia Postrel's book The Future and Its Enemies, and he hosted both Virginia and Nick Gillespie as guests on his long-defunct Internet radio show. I think Nick will agree that one of the high points of his career was when he innocently asked Rotten why the punks never embraced Margaret Thatcher.

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  1. They couldn’t get any former members of Roxy Music to do their ads?

    (Reference explained here; feel free to groan.)

  2. I remember those Mountain Dew ads; I had no idea it was Johnny Rotten’s voice in them. (Nowadays I would probably recognize his distinctive voice, but at that age my knowledge of rock history was not that great.)

  3. …not to mention the last few PiL records.

    Last few?

  4. Last few?

    As far as I’m concerned, the very concept of Johnny Rotten fronting an art-disco band is entertaining enough to vault the group’s first few years as a unit ahead of the Country Life ads. YMMV.

  5. What did Rotten do when Gillespie asked him about Thatcher?

  6. It’s not implausible that it could entice some SmartBalance Spread users to reminisce fondly about real butter, and switch back. But that’s really still a case of going from less bad back to more bad, rather than good to bad.

  7. I fondly remember when Alice Cooper sold out to Callaway . . .

  8. You know what Country Life’s competition should do? Do one of those CGI “raise them from the dead” ads like they did with The Duke and Fred Astaire, except with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Awesome.

  9. “What did Rotten do when Gillespie asked him about Thatcher?”

    Politely explained his disagreements with Thatcher’s politics.

  10. Note that the question was: “What did Johnny Rotten do” and not “What did Johnny Rotten say”

  11. What did Rotten do when Gillespie asked him about Thatcher?

    He said something like, “Because she’s a nasty, evil old cunt.”

    Nick replied with something like, “But doesn’t that make it all the more appropriate?”

  12. Jesse – fair enough, although from the original line, I thought the standard was “genuinely entertaining”, not just a comparison with the butter commercials. I will cop to saying “Death Disco” is a good song.

    kinnath – Cooper’s an avid golfer. Don’t know how much of a sell out it was to get paid to say stuff he was probably saying in private anyway.

    Episiarch – “Darby Crash for Dial anti-bacterial soap”

  13. I don’t know how much of that 85 percent can actually be attributed to the ads.

    Srsly! If Lydon had even half that much appeal, Ron Paul would be president now.

  14. kinnath – Cooper’s an avid golfer. Don’t know how much of a sell out it was to get paid to say stuff he was probably saying in private anyway.

    Yes, I know.

  15. Excellent. Not a terribly great ad, but excellent just the same. I really do like seeing my old punk and rock heroes sell out their moderate celebrity status. Looking forward to seeing Mike Ness promoting laser tattoo removal.

    The Alice Cooper Callaway ads are a good example and I love them. I had a helluva time explaining to my young son why this nice, middle-aged man pimping golf clubs was named Alice.

  16. I always had a spot in my heart for Lydon, and I can’t entirely say why.

  17. I look forward to some equivalent of a youTube clip of an elderly Alice Cooper chasing someone with a driver and screaming for them to get off his lawn.

  18. – “Cooper’s an avid golfer. Don’t know how much of a sell out it was to get paid to say stuff he was probably saying in private anyway.”

    Cooper has always been an avid golfer. He used to do it under assumed names and in disguise for fear that it would ruin his image. No kidding. Alice is definitely a guy I would like to meet.

    FWIW best rebranding of a product ever has to be Old Spice. They took a cheesie dated product and totally rebranded it by embracing its cheesiness. The Brian Urlacher and LL Cool J spots are brilliant.

  19. The Sex Pistols were sell-outs from the start. They were put together by a fucking A&R guy, for crying out loud… Now if we were talking about Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, that would be noteworthy.

  20. I had a helluva time explaining to my young son why this nice, middle-aged man pimping golf clubs was named Alice.

    “She asked me why the singer’s name was Alice – I said ‘listen baby, you really wouldn’t understand'”

  21. fair enough, although from the original line, I thought the standard was “genuinely entertaining”, not just a comparison with the butter commercials. I will cop to saying “Death Disco” is a good song.

    I appreciate the fact that John Lydon decided to do something so completely different from the music that first made him famous. And I do like PiL in limited doses. But in general, it’s more Music I Respect than Music I Enjoy. Towards the end, I didn’t respect it much either.

  22. It’s so creamy
    oh so creamy
    oooooooh…

  23. JW, you may be wrong… you may be right.

  24. Funny ad, competently produced, and a reminder that most of us did not live (and die) in 1977 alone. Good for him (Lydon) in proving the point that should not require proving: capitalism is a “big tent.” In fact, it’s the biggest, all things considered.

  25. ed,
    I think it goes to prove the Sickboy theory more than anything about capitalism.

  26. I think it goes to prove the Sickboy theory

    The…what?
    (goes away to look it up…)

  27. William Shatner is a living rebuttal to the sickboy theory. He won’t die until he has wrung the very last cent of career reinvention and endorsements from his spent and wrecked body. God love him.

    Baked: I could be black, but it’s all about rules and regulations.

  28. he [Shatner] has wrung the very last cent of career reinvention and endorsements from his spent and wrecked body. God love him.

    So that’s the Theory? Living, and being productive? Can’t argue with that.

  29. Is there any power on Earth greater than the Shat? His corpse will have its own TV series when he finally departs this world.

  30. ed–Actually, it’s the opposite, at least as I understand it. “You grow old and can’t hack it.”

  31. Is there any power on Earth greater than the Shat?

    No, but it can be countered slightly by the Nimoy. Slightly.

    Long Fucking Live The Shat!

  32. “You grow old and can’t hack it.”

    Sharner can’t hack it? I’m confused.

  33. ed–The Shat *can* hack it. That’s why he’s the rebuttal to the theory.

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