Opinion

I’m gay. I work in marketing. I’ll still be drinking Coopers

The 'Keeping it Light' video was an abomination of biblical proportions, says Ballistics Marketing & Communications' MD Patrick MacDonald, but here, he argues the brand's badly executed good intentions don't need to be crucified any further.

Let’s get one thing straight. The “Keeping it Light” video was terrible. For one thing, had the producers learned nothing from Amber Sherlock? What were they thinking putting three men in the exact same colour jacket on screen? “Throw in some grog” they said, as well as a “deep and meaningful” Bunnings-style outdoor settee, and we’re sure to resonate with the masses. Just like Jesus did!

But seriously, for those without internet, you’re missing the video of a gay on the left with the Holy Bible pointed ominously in his direction, the adjudicator in the middle whose electricity provider is presumably delighted he got this gig, and another politician on the (not so accidental) right.

But hang on… where is Coopers? The brand that is being crucified for all of this?

Other than a half-consumed bottle of beer from Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie, there is actually no formal representation from Coopers in the making of this video at all. In fact, all parties involved have since confirmed this to be the case (mind the pun).

Aside from the fact that the boys are toasting with glass bottles that don’t actually resemble Coopers’ now infamous Bible Society commemorative cans, there are also only TWO business cards present on the table – neither of which could have occurred had a Coopers PR representative been present.

It follows that the Bible Society’s decision to produce and distribute this little film noir was nothing short of a flagrant abuse of decades of generosity from a major sponsor for its own selfish, political gain.

No doubt the Bible Society thought it would be exquisite PR to assemble three white, middle-class men to form this intellectually groundbreaking panel on diversity while drawing attention to the brand and product of its loyal sponsor. What could possibly go wrong?

Jokes aside, it’s just too easy to get up on the old high horse of hindsight and bang on about how Coopers messed up. Sure, they did. Their marketing team, or someone higher up in the organisation, made the unfortunate judgement of being far too eager to showcase decades of support for one of its many corporate social responsibility initiatives. The decision to release a commemorative beer for an organisation that the public perceived to be steeped in religion was, well, bitter at best.

But by all accounts, Coopers had no hand in this divine video, which is sure to trump such cinematographic delights as the Australian Finance Department’s recruitment video.

The heathen masses on social media are now (quite rightly) annoyed that a respectful conversation on marriage equality has come to this. Many new participants in the debate are even beginning to boycott the beer based on Coopers’ now public support for marriage equality. I, too, am shocked to see YouTube videos of perfectly decent ale poured into bins. It’s simply un-Australian!

Assuming Coopers has been truthful in its public statements, it needs to:

  • Release any evidence that proves Coopers was only supporting the Bible Society’s charitable initiatives, as opposed to any religious or political causes;
  • Review its contract of sponsorship with the Bible Society;
  • Ensure C-level spokespeople are made more available for live, non-scripted videos that are not read from autocue (construe from that what you will); and
  • Highlight the many other benevolent, altruistic causes that Coopers has positively affected for so many years while trying to be more genuine.

Beers and Bibles clearly don’t mix, and I’m not entirely convinced Coopers believed they would in such a literal sense. I don’t believe that Coopers intended in any way to engage in such bizarre, extraneous debates on issues like marriage equality. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that a third-party beneficiary has really nailed Coopers to the cross of public opinion, and perception is, after all, everything.

If I’m wrong on this one, I’ll down a Coopers schooner… Bob Hawke-style.

Patrick MacDonald is managing director of Ballistics Marketing & Communications, a Brisbane-based consultancy specialising in marketing strategy, branding and social media. Formerly the national marketing manager for the hotel division of Coles Pty Ltd, he holds direct experience in both the hospitality and LGBTI sectors and is a national winner in the issues and crisis management division of the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s Golden Target Awards. 

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