Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Damn Right We Changed It

Michelle Koenig-Schwartz has begun Project: Canadian Club - Your Mom Had Groupies

While I was out for a run recently, I saw a new ad for Canadian Club Whisky. The campaign is called “Damn Right Your Dad Drank It,” and features photos of white men doing manly things circa the Seventies.

…. Apparently, the only people invited to the Canadian Club Club are White Males, Ages 18-30, women and people of color need not apply. …. None of this women’s lib, civil rights, limp-wristed liberal bullshit that men are expected to follow these days. ….

Adding insult to injury, visitors to the site are invited to “Put your own dad (or yourself or your friends) into one of our Damn Right ads. It’s downright easy to do, and when you’re done you can download your ad and send it to your friends.” This Ad Maker is where I got the idea for the following project: I was going to remake the ads, but with women.

….As I was working on my version of the Canadian Club ad, I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if lots of people made new versions of the ad, just like Canadian Club intended, but replacing all the men with women that they find inspiring or influential or whom they love?”

….Put in photos of your own mom, make up new catch phrases, anything at all. Maybe at the end we can send what we have created to Canadian Club and show them how much potential business they’ve lost by not making even one ad catering to women.

Among others, trancer21 took up the challenge, connecting it to her participation in fandom—she took up the call to “do what it is that we [femslashers] do best.” (Femslash is a term for fanworks that feature female/female romantic or sexual relationships, while slash can, depending on the user, refer to any same-sex pairing or to male/male pairings.) She added: “The ‘Your Mom Wasn’t Your Dad’s First’ was just *begging* to be slashed.”

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. Canadian Club would be unlikely to have the same success that Michelob had against the “Michelob Oily” fake ad, despite the fact that these fake ads are arguably more initially confusing, requiring some inspection to distinguish them from genuine Canadian Club ads. Not only have courts tilted substantially toward parody in subsequent years; not only does the purely noncommercial distribution of the ads call into question the applicability of trademark law at all and preclude any dilution claim; but these ads inarguably target Canadian Club’s insulting campaign, rather than being a general satire of environmental degradation.
  2. Fanwork creators look at all culture as subject to debate and rewriting. Interpretive and creative skills learned from popular entertainment slide seamlessly into political and social critique outside an entertainment context (though of course they exist there, too).
  3. Canadian Club attempted to enable “user-generated content” by allowing some remixes. But the authorized remix site only wants/expects certain people to play, following certain rules, coloring inside the sexist lines. This is a great example of why licensed remixes do not equate to creative freedom.
  4. The project explicitly hopes to engage Canadian Club and change the advertiser’s behavior. I raise my glass to you, Michelle Koenig-Schwartz, and hope that Canadian Club gets the point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. Thanks so much for posting about this - not only was it really interesting to read your take on the legal aspects of this project, but also I hope some of your readers might be inspired to participate as well.

After posting my project, I went looking around the web for other commentary on this ad campaign, and found a few people who have been using the image generator provided by CC to make their own ads and also some who had made their own ads using Photoshop. All the ones I found, however, still focused on men, implying men who drink Canadian Club are losers, not on the sexist nature of the campaign. Implying that "Your Dad" had sex with a sheep or got an STD from sleeping around isn't really a political or social critique. I wanted the fake ad campaign I started to focus on the groups excluded by the ads and to show CC that it's not okay to cater to one group of consumers by showing tacit approval for and, in fact, even supporting and promoting their racism, sexism, and homophobia.

I actually hadn't considered the legal implications of this fake campaign, as I thought it was made clear through the text and the new tag line that these aren't real ads for Canadian Club. I assumed that this sort of parody/critique was protected by the First Amendment and by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but then the only experience I have with trademark and copyright law is that scene in the movie "The People Vs. Larry Flynt" where the Court upholds Hustler's right to imply Jerry Falwell had sex with his mother. So, y'know, I'm not a law expert by any means. The only thing I had really considered when making the first ad was the fear that Joan Armatrading would be angry I used her image without permission. :-)