Mark told me about these Will Ferrell spots for Old Milwaukee beer last night. They’ve nearly all been recorded as they played on TV, probably on a phone, and then uploaded to personal YouTube channels. (The video above is a handy compilation of several of the individual ads existing out there in the far reaches of YouTube.) I think the ads are great but I didn’t get why I couldn’t find them in HD on the brand channel, or why there wasn’t a neat precis somewhere detailing Old Milwaukee’s marketing strategy and its relationship with Will Ferrell.
This made me reflect on our relationship with information, or more specifically how we’ve gotten used to the near-instant sating of our craving for explanation. Enigma is disappearing. There is little mystery left now that Google has gotten so good at fulfilling our search queries. The world is becoming over-explained. We get to the bottom of something in a few seconds and move on.
It was the absence of answers, and the lack of any obvious ‘why’, that ended up drawing me deeper into the Old Milwaukee world. The grainy YouTube videos, the scant amount of available information, the obvious confusion of viewers – these are classic elements of virality even though the concept of viral is now well and truly appropriated.
An offbeat sensibility coupled with a willful disregard for the conventions of advertising is a pretty standard formula for a brand that wants to establish its independent credentials. But still there’s something else about these ads, something I haven’t seen explained yet. And I think it’s the fact that I’ve had to think for myself what that something else might be which makes me love them so much.