Subcultural cringe

Wellington City Council 'Declare Your Love' ad (19 September 2016)
Photo by Todd Atticus. Original artwork by the Wellington City Council — and me.

So, that was me. I’m the wagin the old-timey parlance of the newspaper. There’s little point pretending otherwise, since the sign was twenty steps from the front door of the pub where I work — and a large part of my m.o. here involves uploading literally hundreds of handwriting samples you could compare against. I’m all for the normalising of beer into the wider popular culture, but this crap isn’t helping. And I say that as a bearded someone (admittedly, it’s neither “bushy” nor “bristly”) who works in the (for want of a better word) craft beer business.

The campaign uses this x-to-my-y formula to reference various Wellingtonisms and encourage voting in upcoming elections. A worthy cause, sure. And some of them are great: the bucket to my fountain; the lightning strike to my wind wand. Pitch-perfect local silliness. But the Council apparently just can’t talk about beer1 like a sensible person. It gave me terrible déjà vu for the ‘Well Proud’ ad from three years ago which was so grasping and gross it made me put on my ranty-pants. Here again, they fail on multiple fronts and just come across as an awkward effort to seem cool.

First, can we just ditch the adjective craft unless we really need it? It is useful sometimes, and I’d defend it as meaningful-enough despite it continually eluding any decent definition. But when you use it where everything else would just be an unadorned noun ― they’d say coffee, not “single origin fair trade coffee”2 ― it seems weird and desperate. Far worse, though, is the second half: the beard trope is just so played out and tired and limiting that it really needs to go. Perhaps I should send them my hopefully-exhaustive guide on gender in beer-related marketing.

Beer is a big part of Wellington life; a perfect subject for a reference like this. But these posters don’t do anything to celebrate or further it. In the clumsy pursuit of second-hand hip, they perpetuate the idea that it’s a fringe, niche thing ― and that it’s for stereotypically-hipstery men. That’s a fail grade. The Council should try again, and try harder. Or just stop.

You really should vote, though.

  1. Or coffee, apparently. The billboards near work have been replaced and now read “You’re the caffeine hit to my morning shakes.” Shakes? That seems… pathological. I’m a heavy caffeine user and basically allergic to mornings, but I don’t drink coffee to fight off delirium tremens. How about “You’re the second coffee to my busy morning” instead? I am available for hire as a copywriter if you need help. I’d also suggest “the umbrella to my rubbish bin” and “the bracing Southerly to my ‘Scorching’ Bay” as candidates.
  2. This was particularly galling in the previous campaign: bread, chocolate, coffee, and everything else were all just themselves. But beer had to be “craft”.

3 thoughts on “Subcultural cringe”

  1. I don’t understand what they’re trying to say, given beer foam is a mild annoyance to a beard, and is quickly wiped off.
    So they’re not really an ideal pairing.

    Says the guy who can’t grow a beard.

    1. Voting… one of the annoying, but unavoidable, necessities of living in a so-called “democracy”. (Solvable by moving to one of many fair-clime’d dictatorships or single-party countries.)

      Foam in your beard (should you have one)… one of the annoying, but unavoidable, necessities of drinking a so-called “craft beer”. (Solvable by shaving the damn fool thing off.)

      Probably not what they meant… but best sense I can make out of it. 🙂

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