Is authenticity as fleeting a personal quality as chastity? Are we limited in our self-expression opportunities? Do we have an overarching desire to live in the past, rather than exercise our Constitutional right to pursue present-day felicity and now-ness?
I ask these questions in the wake of yet another inspiration-porn campaign with the words "live" and "true" in its tagline. This time it's Dewar's, purveyor of adult libations, that believes we are living our life's livelihood in a lifeless manner and that today's semi-young should stop at nothing to follow their passions, duty and debt service be damned. That conceit underlines a series of clips from its Spanish marketeers that debuted last week under the "Live True" hashtag.
The Spanish-language video that announces the campaign's launch is practically a billboard for everything that's self-unaware about pitches of this sort. In it, we're introduced to a gaggle of Serious People Who Work Seriously. We see them showering, getting dressed and in moments of deep personal reflection (mostly on buses, it appears). Then they go to work, and then the music swells, and then it's like: Wait, so knocking back a few fingers of scotch is ideal nutritional prepwork for rock climbing?
We don't see any of the Grimly Determined Titans of Passion Pursuit downing the booze, of course, but even the suggestion of a connection is troubling (troubling for the rock climber, soccer players, stone mason, motorcycle builder and bull rider, anyway; for the band and the journamalist, chemical impairment barely registers as an occupational hazard). It's also a bit odd that the clip is set to a recitation of Charles Bukowski's "so you want to be a writer?," as Bukowski is generally regarded as the Nelson Mandela of dipsomaniacal poetic excess. His words strike the right note ("if you have to wait for it to roar out of you/then wait patiently/if it never does roar out of you/do something else"), but the boozehound association is unfortunate and unmissable to anyone familiar with Bukowski's bio.
The individual clips, in which the Heroic Stoic Dream-Followers talk about the importance of doing what you love, man, have the same overall effect. Take the one featuring indie band Saint Motel, which depicts the life of an up-and-coming band as borderline Dickensian. It's not glamorous, you see, but you simply can't not do it, because to not do so would be to deny your fundamental self-essence-ness. As one of the musicians puts it: "If it's what you feel like you should be doing, then you should do it." Thanks for clearing that up, bespectacled music person. I'm gonna go tell the wife and kid that I'm quitting my job to pursue my true calling, which is napping on cushioned surfaces.
It's a real waste, since the three-minute clips at the core of the campaign are beautifully shot, all angles and shadows and quick-cut blur. For almost any other product or brand, they'd be a huge asset. Maybe Dewar's can trade them to Nike for some moisture-wicking workout gear? It's not like the average dead-eyed video watcher would notice the difference. The testimonials and inspiration-speak would remain dippy, but they'd feel slightly less so in the service of another product or category.
Maybe I should be praising Dewar's for its restraint, for resisting what must've been a powerful temptation to include "free," "now" or "alive" in the campaign tag. And hey, I'm on board with the notion that authenticity is good, just like passion, self-expression, sovereignty and any number of other concepts that, coincidentally enough, form the plank of modern-day Libertarianism.
But really: Dewar's is a scotch whiskey with higher-end demographic aspirations. People drink it because they like to think of themselves as scotch drinkers and because it's yummy, not because they derive personal conviction from it. Binding Dewar's to a Be Your Most You-ish You message is a tactic more befitting a mass-market fizzy beverage. Booze and aspiration don't mix.