My favourite ad of all time: Irn Bru from 1998

Veering sharply away from the usual suspects such as Grand Prix winners at gong fests like Cannes, Mindshare’s chief growth officer Rohan Lightfoot picks a local favourite (if you're in Scotland that is) – Scottish fizzy drink Irn Bru

My favourite ad of all time says a lot about me. It betrays my age, my nationality and my (pre?) adolescent sense of humour.

It also says a lot about a creative agency in Scotland called the Leith Agency that consistently and hilariously produced campaign after campaign of amazing work for a Scottish non-alcoholic ready to drink (or NARTD as those of us in the know like to call them) product called Irn Bru.

For people that speak English, as opposed to marketing, Irn Bru is the fizziest, sweetest, orangest, most caffeinated fizzy drink imaginable.

When I was growing up in Scotland, Irn Bru outsold Coca-Cola. That fact says a lot about the Scottish diet, but that’s a topic for a different article.

Everyone in Asia knows that whisky is Scotland’s national drink. When I was very, very young, Irn Bru was marketed as ‘your other national drink’.

The brand was not playing on an innate sense of national pride. It was actually implying that Irn Bru is the perfect cure the morning after you drink too much of the actual national drink.

The implication was true. The absurdly high sugar, caffeine and carbonation of Irn Bru made it the perfect hangover cure. That fact says a lot about Scottish drinking habits, but that’s a topic for a different article.

Anyway, the brief was to broaden the appeal of Irn Bru beyond the core audience of colour blind alcoholics (admittedly a large segment in Scotland) and into more youthful territory.

The result was one of the most consistently brilliant bodies of work that I have seen from any brand and agency partnership anywhere in the world, ever.

This poster is my favourite.

I can still remember the specific 48 sheet poster on Ferry Road in Edinburgh where I first it. The poster contractor was Maiden. The site was quite close to my flat and it was on my bus route home.

No matter how shit my day at Feather Brooksbank had been, I laughed out loud when I saw it. I was quite upset when the campaign came down.

Much like the product, everything about it smacked you in the face.

The art direction was perfect. The juxtaposition of the orange brand colour with the black and white stock photo made it unmissable in OOH. The posh old geezer was the antithesis of the consumer and was utterly unlike anyone you would ever see in an advert for any other fizzy drink.

But the copy was the killer touch. Irn Bru went gangsta in Scotland, in 1998, before 50 Cent even had an album out.

As Dave Trott reminds us all the time (look him up), only 4% of advertising is remembered positively. 7% is remembered negatively. 89% of advertising isn’t remembered at all and yet, Irn Bru ran work so perfect that I can still remember the specific poster site that it ran on 21 years later.

Rohan Lightfoot is chief growth officer at Mindshare Asia-Pacific and is based in Singapore


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