Commentary

Eight O'Clock Coffee's "The Cupping Room": Drink That It Doesn't Go Viral

If I were called upon to update a fusty brand for these wackadoodle modern times of ours, I wouldn't know where to begin. Sears, Cream of Wheat, Town & Country - these are proud, venerable brands and, as such, somewhat out of place in the whittled-down world of 140 characters. There are exceptions - Levi Strauss, founded in 1873, still feels contemporary - but for the most part, old companies have a tough time working with and around the reality of their oldness.

So I empathize with the poor souls charged with dragging Eight O'Clock Coffee, a brand that's as fresh and relevant as disco, into the Internet age. But even acknowledging the impossible nature of the assignment, Eight O'Clock Coffee's first foray into video virality is a disaster.

It shouldn't have ended up that way. The very notion of competitive eating is funny as hell - er, unless you're afflicted with Celiac disease - and Takeru Kobayashi is the Muhammad Ali of that particular athletic/gustatory ecosystem. So pairing Kobayashi with the great Jim Breuer, whose Half Baked is the Ben Hur of stoner comedies (to extend this tortured analogy, that would make Up In Smoke the Citizen Kane and The Big Lebowski the 2001: A Space Odyssey)… well, you'd think any creatively inclined being could milk humor out of that odd coupling.

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You'd think. Instead, the campaign attempts to be Funny! For! The! Internet! The video takes us into Eight O'Clock Coffee's cupping room - where, according to the clip's token straight man, the company's blends are sampled and assessed for "flavor profile." As she speaks, Breuer and Kobayashi act bored. Then Kobayashi starts drinking everything in sight and Breuer hopscotches between concern, befuddlement, amazement, overexaggerated fake amazement, ain't-this-lame-but-I'm-in-on-the-joke meta-sarcasm and, finally, admiring support. He breaks into an Italian accent at one point, which would make a lot more sense if Eight O'Clock Coffee had been founded by Enrico Fermi rather than A&P.

The clip is thus a one-beat joke drawn out over five endless minutes. See, Kobayashi is a compulsive speed-eater - so he can't NOT drink the coffee! And he keeps drinking and drinking and drinking, moving to the coffee pots after the chalices have been emptied! Then he tries to eat the unground coffee beans! And here's the kicker: There's an Eight O'Clock Coffee-branded hot-dog cart awaiting him in the hallway! Which makes Kobayashi beam with the radiance of a thousand burning suns! Funny!

That's the entirety of the bit. There are no production values of which to speak and no quotable lines. None. As a result, I don't really know how to meet my word count for this review. Perhaps I could share a recipe, or some intimate personal trivia? [Recipe: Take somebody else's recipe and double the salt and butter. Trivia: My third-favorite color is navy blue.]

Thus we have a Video Critique first: a situation in which the videomakers should hope to God their clip doesn't go viral. The more people who see this thing, the more people who will walk away with the impression that Eight O'Clock Coffee isn't just a grandma brand, but a grandma brand with a nonfunctional sense of humor.

In the end, "The Cupping Room" provokes no reactions or emotions beyond pity. I feel bad for Breuer and Kobayashi. I feel bad for Eight O'Clock Coffee, in as much as anyone can feel bad for a non-sentient corporate entity [insert "corporations are people!" political jab here]. It's as much a what-not-to-do primer as anything I've ever seen.

1 comment about "Eight O'Clock Coffee's "The Cupping Room": Drink That It Doesn't Go Viral".
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  1. Paul Benjou from The Center for Media Management Strategies, May 8, 2012 at 3:36 p.m.

    I vomited in my mouth

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