Grip Limited Breaks Labatt Blue Effort

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Labatt: Out of the blue and into the black?
Toronto agency Grip Limited broke its first from-scratch campaign for Labatt Blue last week, putting to the test an experiment Labatt undertook last year when it conjured up a new agency to handle its account. Formed in response to the brewers' frustration with traditional agencies, Grip has been a flashpoint for controversy and criticism north of the border, and no new campaign has been more awaited -- by friends and foes -- than this one for Labatt's flagship brand.

So what's the big idea? According to creative partner Graham Lee, the idea was to hire 50 guys -- including an entire hockey team and an entire rugby team, so some of them would already know each other -- and film them doing things guys do. "To bother to shoot them, they had to be things you do to your friends, for your friends or with your friends," Lee says. The agency and director Andrew Christou -- via Moxie Pictures in the U.S. and Avion in Canada -- captured some 70 scenarios involving practical jokes, hazing and goofing around on digital video, hoping to end up with a :60 and three :30s. Instead, they walked away with a :60, a two minute cinema spot and 10 :30s. In the first flight, we see a man opening his car door to find out his friends have filled it with golf balls; another guy who gets taped to a chair and thrown into a hotel elevator; and a bunch of guys falling for a time-honored kitchen prank involving tape and the sink's spray nozzle. As at home as these scenarios might be in most beer commercials, the Jackass-like lo-fi production makes the spots stand out.

"We really wanted to do the un-overproduced beer shoot," Lee explains. "It's easy to write funny scripts about friendship, but we said let's get some real friends together and see if we can capture that." Appropriately, the campaign also ushers in a new tagline -- "Cheers. To Friends." -- that replaces the longrunning "Out of the blue."

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