The regular reader will, of course, recall part one of my occasional series on Great Alcoholic Beverage (“bevvy”) Ads of Our Time, from September 2007.
Today I’m happy to bring you another installment, prompted by a newer campaign for Scotland’s Homecoming, which uses Dougie MacLean’s sentimental song Caledonia (plus Sean Connery, Lulu and others) to help remind us how lovely Scotland is.
It’s not the first time MacLean’s song has been used in advertising. Scottish lager brand Tennent’s ran ads back in 1990 – a mere four years after the McEwan’s ad – which also successfully tied together that song and a dollop of sentimental Scottishness to sell their rather pissy brew. But we’ll draw a veil, because the ad is a classic of its type.
Before I give you the video itself, here’s the plot (warning: spoiler).
Cue music – “I don’t know / if you can see / the changes that / have come over me”… And our floppy-haired hero (this is 1990, after all) is in (pah, spit!) London, on a grey, nasty day. It could be any day. He’s a yuppy, on the make, but hey – we have to make a living, even the dreamers.
We start underground, away from any light, at the apparently unholy hour of 8.15am. He clambers aboard a packed tube. He sees other unfortunates struggling to find their way around The System. It is a grim, dog-eat-dog world, far from care-free Caledonia. “In these last few days / I’ve been afraid / that I might drift awaaay“…
Surfacing to the packed streets, he sees a cyclist fitting a mask to guard against the filthy air of England’s filthy capital (a scene pictured above). He sees those ghastly Londoners arguing in the street, because that’s what they do. Finally arriving in his glass-fronted yuppy hive he pins on his name badge, enters the packed lift with the other drones… and, as we take a close look into his eyes, says inwardly: Fcuk this for a game of soldiers. “That’s the reason / I seem so far away todaaaay“.
Go on yersel, rebel!
Striding out, he chucks the namebadge back, taking a suspicious look from a security guard, lobs his briefcase in a bin lorry – attracting the ire of one of London’s many gargoyles – and before you can say “downshifting” there’s Edinburgh castle lit in Scotland’s permanent sunshine.
Now he’s on Princes Street buying a newspaper from a friendly man and – in a moment – entering a civilised bar mostly filled with pleasant women drinking Tennent’s lager. His friends await and, as Frankie Miller sings “Caledonia’s everything I’ve ever had”, our hero finally sups his pint of suds.
And just when you think the drama’s over – his laughing face transmogrifies into a newspaper page being held by a women standing – wait for it – on the tube. She looks wistfully into the middle distance, and we fade to black. She needs a lager too. The cycle begins again.
The ad follows what we can now identify as a pattern in Scottish bevvy ads in my youth, which is to rail against the prevailing Thatcherite, capitalistic ethos of the day, in favour of breaking away and enjoying more traditional pursuits, such as the bevvy. You’ll recall that the McEwan’s ad from 1986 was noted for being based “on ‘The myth of Sisiphus’ by Albert Camus [...] meant to show ceaseless and pointless toil as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices.”
This ad, I think we can agree, is another chip off the Camus-esque block. Do enjoy.