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The day a beer brand found out its celebrity spokesperson was in rehab

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Spokesperson Disasters

In the world of advertising, landing a celebrity is a big deal. Some research suggests people are willing to pay 20 per cent more for a product endorsed by a celebrity. It’s also a very expensive advertising strategy as celebrities don’t come cheap. That’s why everything has to go just right when creating a spokesperson advertising campaign. Because celebrities attract a lot of attention. So do their mishaps.


Microsoft Mixup

In 2012, Oprah Winfrey listed the new Microsoft Surface tablet as one of her “Favourite Things” and it got a lot of attention.

Oprah Winfrey included the Microsoft Surface in her 2012 “Favourite Things” list. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters) Oprah tweeted about it saying: “Gotta love that Surface! Have bought 12 already for Christmas gifts. #FavouriteThings”

That was a powerful endorsement, except for one small thing: At the top of Oprah’s tweet, it said: “via Twitter for iPad.”
In other words, Oprah had tweeted about the Microsoft tablet from her Apple iPad.

It didn’t take long for the Twitterverse to notice that little snafu.

While some thought it made Oprah look like a sell-out, others came to her defence saying there weren’t many Microsoft Twitter apps available at the time. Either way, it showed just how easily a celebrity endorsement can go off the rails.


Lame Duck

For over a decade, Gilbert Gottfried played his most famous role: The Aflac duck.

Yes, since the millennium, the comedian voiced the familiar duck that frustratingly quacks at people who can’t remember the name of the supplemental insurance provider called the American Family Life Assurance Company. Or Aflac for short.

It was a happy relationship – until March of 2011, when a 40m tsunami struck the pacific coast of Japan. Killing over 15,000 people. As many celebrities did, Gottfried took to Twitter. But he wasn’t expressing his sympathies for the country. Instead, he was tweeting jokes.

Gilbert Gottfried was the Aflac spokesduck for a decade. (The Associated Press) Gottfried posted several jokes that made light of the tragedy. Including: “Japan is very advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”

The tweets sparked an instant media outrage. And within just one hour of hitting the “send” button, the spokesduck was fired. As it turns out, three quarters of Aflac’s business was conducted in Japan.

Gottfried deleted the tweets and issued an apology, but Aflac stood by their decision. It also put out an immediate nationwide casting call to replace Gottfried as the Aflac duck.

Pre-duck, Aflac had 11 per cent brand awareness. Post duck, Aflac brand awareness rose to 95 per cent and it had spent over $80M media dollars per year to support their quacker. Suffice it to say, the duck was a valuable part of their branding.

The duck had amassed over 230,000 Facebook “likes” – double the likes of the Aflac brand itself. And it was on the duck’s page that the brand announced the job opening. Interested parties were asked to submit a 30-second audio file showcasing their best Aflac quack to “QuackAflac.com.”

It was smart marketing. Nearly 30,000 people viewed the job description. Aflac poured through nearly 13,000 applications from the general public.

The search itself garnered over 70,000 media stories. Web and social media traffic soared. And the job search campaign even won Aflac a coveted Cannes Lion advertising award. After a month-long search, Aflac plucked their new duck out of obscurity: 36-year-old Dan McKeague – a radio station sales manager from small town, Minnesota:

With their new spokesduck, the company’s web traffic grew by 20 per cent, Twitter followers increased by nearly 15 per cent and direct sales leads jumped by 80 per cent.

Aflac had taken a lame duck story… and turned it into a duck dynasty.


Beer Blunder

Eric Clapton became the spokesperson for Michelob beer in 1987. (Wikimedia Commons) In 1979, Anheuser-Busch sold over 7 million barrels of Michelob beer. But by the late ’80s, that number dropped by 35 per cent. Beer drinkers had begun favouring imported brands and Michelob was being left in the dust.

So in 1987, Michelob decided to change its image. It needed to woo back its 1980’s customers and attract a brand new set of 20-something drinkers.

It needed to become cool again. And what’s cooler…than rock and roll.

To launch their campaign, Michelob brought in the big guns – tapping some of the biggest names in the music industry – including Phil Collins, Roger Daltrey, Steve Winwood – and Eric Clapton.

The theme was: “The Night Belongs to Michelob.” The supergroup starred in a series of 60-second ads that placed Michelob in the nightlife scene. Many of the rockers traded the use of their songs in exchange for tour sponsorship.

Clapton’s ad showed the singer leaving his concert and crossing the street to play at a dark, hazy bar. All set to a slowed down version of his 1973 hit, “After Midnight”:

The campaign was a hit – boosting Michelob sales for the first time in nearly a decade. But the celebration didn’t last long. Shortly after the campaign launched, it came out that Eric Clapton was in rehab. In late 1987, the singer/songwriter had entered a treatment facility in Minnesota for alcoholism. A crushing blow to the campaign.

At the time, the alcohol industry was already under scrutiny for sponsoring concert tours, with many accusing the industry of contributing to the underage drinking problem. Having an alcoholic musician-spokesperson for a beer brand didn’t help.

Clapton said he found himself in rehab sitting in a room full of recovering alcoholics when the first ad aired on TV. Someone said: “Is that you?” To which he replied: “Yup.”

Anheuser-Busch terminated Clapton’s contract immediately.

Some of Clapton’s fellow rockers didn’t approve of his association with Michelob in the first place – many becoming vocal about their distaste of Clapton “selling out.” Tom Petty said: “How is someone supposed to take your next work seriously when your last one was a beer commercial?”

Well, as it happens, Clapton’s next work won a Grammy. Michelob sales, however, resumed their decline.

Proving that, sometimes, a scandal hurts the brand more than the celebrity.


For these stories and more from Under The Influence, click or tap on the “Listen” tab to hear the full episode.
You can also find us on the CBC Radio app or subscribe to our Podcast.


(Image Credit: Sidney O’Reilly)

Under The Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio – a 1969 Airstream trailer that’s been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O’Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.
Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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