OPINION: Cowen on...Grolsch

Sschtopp! This advertising prohpohsition is noht finished yeht! Why should we care that the Grolsch is brewed for lohnger? Doehs it make the drink any more refreshing - or strohnger? Will it mahke me loohk more coohl?

Lame intro, I know. But then the one point on which anyone discussing the current Grolsch campaign can agree is that the central idea is pants. It doesn't feel natural to a lager. Instead it's the kind of thing that dubiously-bearded Steeleye Span fans should mumble about over their strange fruity beer and which shouldn't be allowed near any drink with pretensions of being hip. It makes an understandable stab at echoing the growing appeal of wheat beers such as Leffe but "we only let you drink it when it's ready

doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as "Reassuringly Expensive

or "Probably the best lager in the world".

You can watch The Leith Agency's entire campaign non-stop from beginning to end - from the bank job to the chimp wedding and the latest interrogation sequence - and the central message would still be nowhere near the front of your mind. But then these ads have never really been about the main proposition. They're all about the comedy gold-mine that is cod Dutch accents and their success depends wholly on whether a viewer finds said accents funny or merely peculiar.

The response to this crucial question divides fairly brutally along gender lines. Young English males find the Dutch the most amusing nation on earth while young women, for the most part, don't. So perhaps there's something in the Y chromosone to explain why, while most girls I know can't stand them, men tend to rate the Grolsch ads alongside some of the finest moments from The Fast Show.

If the accent doesn't tickle your funny bone then there's precious little else in the work to convince you. But if you're one of those who wanders around Amsterdam giggling without any need for waccy baccy, then they're a real treat. The sheer blank, gravely sincere enthusiasm of the campaign's star isn't just funny, it's infectious. And it carries along some of the worst scripts in advertising history. I really shouldn't admit it but I still smile just thinking about the delivery of the central line in the porn ad. "Where is this guy's mouhstache? Why is he actually fihxing the refrihgerahtor?"

The Leith's interpretation of the Grolsch brief is distinguished mainly by ditching any air of sophistication or superiority that was previously attached to the central idea, through work such as Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper's "paper aeroplanes", and playing the whole brand strategy for cheap laughs.

It's patronising and would probably be considered politically incorrect if anyone ever worried about offending The Netherlands. However, it's also extremely effective. With on-trade sales up 51 per cent for 2001, according to AC Nielsen, and off-trade rising 73 per cent, its unlikely that Grolsch will be too worried that its appeal is restricted to blokes.

With another £11 million earmarked for the campaign this year, the key challenge is keeping the character and the situations fresh - but Leith must be careful not to play too far away from the campaign's strengths. The new "Mister Tickly

spot is the weakest ad so far and not just because it feels so obviously ripped off from the Ikea work from St Luke's. The Dutchman, here, is convincingly threatening. And threatening Dutchmen aren't funny. The only real source of humour is lost - and the predictable payoff is really no substitute. The campaign needs to remember what it does best - or men and women could end up agreeing about it. And not in a way that suits Grolsch.

Dead cert for a pencil? Have you been drinking again?

File this ad under? S for SCHTOPP!

What would the chairman's wife say? Is this an ad for Ikea?

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