Revelstoke gives guys a place to gawk -- at the urinal
By Peter Vamos
May 7, 2001
So what's the story?
In the age-old quest to put the message directly in consumers' sightlines, Revelstoke Canadian Spiced Whisky may have found the Holy Grail - right at the bottom of the pisser.
Looking to make a splash with young barflies across Canada and the U.S., Revelstoke has begun putting ads directly on the rubber nets that adorn the bottoms of urinals in local pubs wherever the rye whisky is sold.
The concept was developed by Dean Phillips, president of Minneapolis, Minn.-based Phillips Products, which produces Revelstoke and those other staples of the hard-drinking set, Sourpuss and Butter Ripple schnapps.
The ads actually appear as black patches on urinal nets until guys start doing their, uh, thing, at which point special heat sensitive ink transforms into zany branded massages like "Man who pee on electric fence receive shocking news" and "Never play leapfrog with a unicorn." Once the ink cools the text goes back to black.
The ad copy, Phillips says, is in a place where you are guaranteed that every guy must look. "They're without question the most talked about promotional piece that we've ever done," he says.
Talk about hitting your target... (or is that your target hitting you?)
Exactly. For those watching Revelstoke's emergence, the urinal nets should come as no surprise. Launched in late 2000, the brand was developed from scratch in partnership with Toronto-based agency Holmes and Lee.
As one might guess, the brand's target is predominantly an urban male, 20 to 35, who doesn't take life, or his body functions particularly seriously.
The creative developed to accompany the brand's launch was nothing if not provocative. The main thrust was a print campaign featuring the likes of a topless lap-dancer straddling a guy accompanied by copy that reads: "In Canada, the average paycheck rarely lasts two weeks. It's more like twenty songs."
"The strategy is to create a new category," says Phillips.
"The rye category both in Canada and the United States is probably the most tired category with the oldest brands and the least innovation. We felt strongly that there was an opportunity to take a rye-based full-proof whisky and make it taste good to a whole new generation that has never found Canadian (whisky) appealing. It's about showing people that there's an alternative out there." The urinal screens extend from that strategy.
Phillips says members of his staff originally spotted similar toilet screens in a washroom on the campus of the University of Minnesota with copy reading "Go Gofers," a cheer for the university's football team the Golden Gophers.
Intrigued by the idea and discovering that it was not patented, Phillips found a company that makes urinal screens and sourced heat sensitive ink.
"We thought it would be a great untapped way to make some impressions," he says. "It's close to the point of purchase and it's got what we call a low CPU, Cost per Urination."
The concept has, in fact, been so successful that guys are actually stealing the nets from the urinals, Phillips reports. "That's actually a sign of success, if you ask me - The truest indicator of success."
It's also an indicator that your target is dumber than cellophane....But enough about me.
As a result of such pilferage, Phillips has had to reorder the nets three times, for a total of 20,000 distributed throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and 15 states south of the border.
When you think of it, the urinal nets are a logical next step in a process that began long ago when the first business put its name on the side of a building. Advertisers have been trying to come up with new innovations to get in consumers' faces ever since. From billboards to sidewalk graphics to video terminals over toilets - the goal is to nail them with the message when they're looking.
But until now, there was always the distraction factor - the possibility that the consumer will look away and miss the message.
There is really only one place that all men are guaranteed to look at precisely the right moment and thusly Revelstoke has given new meaning to the concept of reading in the john.
You might, however, want to think twice about shaking hands in bars where it's sold.