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HomeNL-2012-03 Canoe Ads

Canoes in Product Advertising
John Rich

While searching for a particular image of a canoe on the internet, I remember not what, I happened across an interesting photo of a canoe in a completely unrelated context.  And like many entertaining internet searches, that one image led me to look for and find other similar images that I never would have expected.  In this case, I'm talking about canoes used in product advertising for mass marketing purposes, and they all happen to be related to beverages!

I'll review a few of the more interesting advertisements which I found, starting with the tame beverages, before moving on to the potent variety.



This old 7-Up soda advertisement features two men fighting with pugil sticks while standing in canoes. The ad copy says; "7-Up is a real natural for the action crowd!  It's got the sparkle that swings...  the taste that's fresh and frisky... and the quick quenching action to make thirst quit.  Look for it.  7-Up... Where there's action!"  That ad comes from 1965.  I don't know about you, but the idea of hitting people with padded sticks while canoeing is sort of contrary to the kind of peace and action I look for on the water.

 Red Canoe Coffee
The Red Canoe Coffee logo features a red canoe floating amidst a flotsam of giant coffee beans, with a cup of hot steaming coffee sitting on the canoe seat.  They bill themselves as the premier coffee shop of the northwoods, located in St. Germain.  But their web site never tells you which north woods, or where St. Germain is located.  Oh well.  It's a neat logo anyway, even if we can't find them.  But they do have an online store.





Now we'll get into the beer advertisements.  This Budweiser ad is dated 1972, and features a tandem canoe wall-papered all over the outside with Budweiser logos, being paddled by two men through swift water.  The ad says; "Some things a man does just because he feels like it."  Yep, macho manly activities, like canoeing and drinking beer!  So if you want to be manly too, you better drink Bud.

 Carlton Draught
Carlton Draught is a brand of beer in Australia, and their ad featured male executives walking around a corporate office carrying canoes.  The explanation from the ad agency is this; "The ‘Canoe’ is a metaphor for office politics and corporate egotism. The proposition of the ad is that we would be better off if we ignored the politics and enjoyed a beer. This TV ad came out of the brand theme that Carlton Draught is a good, honest, real beer”. “So, we were sitting around thinking about notions of ‘true’ and ‘real’ which led us to think about the opposite: stereotypes of men which only really seem to exist on TV, not in the real world. Basically, we just started making fun of stuff we thought was a load of old nonsense. We started writing one of those overblown voiceovers that you hear in certain types of ads for men’s products. We got to the bit about, ‘A man needs to win, to get on top and stay there, and you can’t do that without…’ and we then started thinking about the ultimate male business accessory; something even more impressive than a Palm Pilot, a canoe!”





If you dropped your 12-pack of beer overboard from your canoe, would you go into the water to save it?  That's the question posed by an old Falstaff beer advertisement, and my personal favorite.  And in the case of Falstaff, the answer is; "It's worth going after!"  The name "Lemp" you see in the ad is for Johann Lemp, the German immigrant who founded the brewery in 1840 in St. Louis.  Lemp's expansions included the Galveston Brewing Company created in 1895. The beer was named after the Shakespearean character Sir John Falstaff and represented the more positive social aspects of drinking, rather than the destructive consequences of over consumption emphasized by prohibitionists. Sir John was a "man's man" who's philosophy was to "eat drink & be merry" and his sense of good fun was tempered by an exceptional intellect.  The Falstaff brand lasted from 1903 until 2005, when it was finally terminated due to low sales. 

Canoes can be found used in ads for other types of products too, such as hunting and archery items, and other outdoor adventure goods.  The message that all of these ads seem to send is that people who canoe are strong, independent, likable achievers, and those are qualities to which everyone aspires.  If you want to be known as that kind of a person, drink their product! 

Or maybe you could just actually go canoeing. Ah, but that's much more difficult...  A beer, anyone?

The author, 

John Rich