Mike’s Hard Lemonade Gets Poetic in Quirky Rhyming Ads From Grey

Martin Landau, Coolio lend a hand

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: Alcohol ads aren't usually very poetic, but Grey's new work for Mike's Hard Lemonade is literally so—if heavy on the doggerel. The alcopop is evolving its positioning from an occasional alternative to beer (as seen in last year's "Always different. Always refreshing" campaign) to a drink that's good anytime. "Perhaps we can get beyond the idea that it's only cool to bring Mike's to a picnic or pool party or backyard barbecue," said Grey creative director Brian Platt. Two new ads are set in a bowling alley and a Japanese restaurant and use comically rhyming dialogue—like Dr. Seuss after a sixpack— to illustrate, along with director Tom Kuntz's quirky visuals, how perfect Mike's can be in any situation.

COPYWRITING: Male protagonists banter with an unseen voiceover in both spots. "Anytime's a great time for a cold, refreshing Mike's," the voice says in the bowling spot. "Anytime? Even now?" a gangly bowler replies. "Even if you were bowling against Martin Landau," says the voice. "And a man covered in dirt rubs up on your shirt. It's a great time, you see." "For a Mike's?" "Yes siree." "Even if there were bodybuilders on bikes?" "Even if they brought that guy that nobody likes. Even if you see your girl with your best friend Juan. And the ground opened up, and then you were gone." The bowler falls through the floor, so the voice addresses Juan: "Guess I'll talk to you now. Sorry about your friend. Mike's is great anytime. There's Landau again!" Each line is humorously depicted, and Landau appears both times he's mentioned, grinning broadly.

The agency experimented with loads of rhymes. "'A man covered in dirt rubs up on your shirt' is just a nice moment," said Platt. "The casting and wardrobe and the way Tom directed the guy made it unexpected and funny." Kuntz didn't change any rhymes, though the writers upgraded some of them. ("Guess I'll talk to you now" was originally followed by, "You're the only ones here. Mike's is great anytime. Served wherever there's beer.") The restaurant spot is also filled with absurd characters, from a salty sea captain to Coolio dancing on a stage. The tagline is: "It's never not a good time for a Mike's."

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: Kuntz shot the two spots over three days at locations in Los Angeles. It was a reunion of sorts, as Grey creative directors Steven Fogel and Doug Fallon, the copywriter and art director on these ads, also worked with Kuntz on last year's "Cable Effects" campaign for DirecTV. Kuntz brought his inimitable sensibility. "We thought there would be some nice energy having the bodybuilders biking around and swooping up our protagonist," said Platt. "But Tom was like, 'No, no, let's just have these guys in a V-formation, totally still.' And it just works." The product integration is amusingly lowtech. "We could have CG-ed the hell out of it and had the bottle magically and amazingly appear," Platt said. "It's intentionally very ham-fisted."

TALENT: The agency didn't want to ridicule the celebs. "A lot of brands today bring back these B-actors from the '80s, and the joke is on them," said Platt. "I hope you're surprised to see Landau in the bowling alley and hear his name. But the laugh isn't so much on him. Same thing, to a lesser extent, with Coolio." The heroes are relatable, Platt added—"not too cool where you hate them or too much of a geek where it was clear we just cast for the geek." Mike Hanson does an impressive job as essentially the voice of God.

SOUND: The agency considered using music but felt that the rhymes were sing-song-y enough by themselves. Otherwise, it's mostly ambient sound.

MEDIA: TV and online. A digital component breaks soon.



Client: Mike's Hard Lemonade

Spots: "Bowling Alley," "Hibachi"

Agency: Grey, New York

Chief Creative Officer: Tor Myhren

Executive Creative Director:  Eric Segal

Creative Director: Brian Platt

CD/CW: Steven Fogel

CD/AD: Doug Fallon

Creatives: Robert Cuff, Matthew Nall          

Director Broadcast Production: Bennett McCarroll

Agency Producer: John Hilmer

Agency Music Producer: Donald McNally

Account: Chris Ross, Rakesh Talwar, Kara DeBuona, Scott Cohen

Planning: Todd Sussman

Casting: Jerry Saviola, John Bekiaris

Project Manager: Erin Bremmer

Business Manager: Diane Wolfe

Talent Manager: Joanne Sherman, Gail Homesack

Production Company: MJZ

Director: Tom Kuntz

DP: Greg Fraser

Senior Producer: Scott Howard

Line Producer: Emily Skinner

Editorial: Mackenzie Cutler

Editor: Gavin Cutler

Assistant Editor: Ryan Steele

Engineer: Sam Shaffer

Executive Producer: Sasha Hirschfeld

Color: Company 3 // Method Studios

Colorist: Tim Masick

VFX Supervisor: Doug Luka

Flame Artist: Flame Artists – Jay Hawkins, Chris Hunt, Alvin Cruz

Compositors: Aleksandar Djordjevic, David Piombino

Roto: David Marte

Digital Matte Painter: Philippe Gaulier

Executive Producer: Stuart Robinson

Producer: Jenn Dewey/Christa Cox

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.