Figure 1

The latest John Jameson
 whiskey print ads, seen in select subway cars near you, tell the story of a respectful, bearded man and his treasured whiskey. Typical of beer and alcohol advertisements, these ads establish “a pedagogy of youthful masculinity that does not passively teach male consumers about the qualities of their product so much as it encourages consumers to think of their product as essential to creating a stylish and desirable lifestyle” (Messener and Montez de Oca 2005). The focus of these ads is not John Jameson whisky’s distillation process, its ingredients or how it should be consumed; this campaign focuses on the established businessman, his reputation, admirable character and accomplishments.

The bearded man, presumably John Jameson himself (although the real Jameson did not sport a beard,) doesn’t, however, fall under “The Male Consumer as Loser” motif. This comes as a response to the chronotope in which it was published (1882). Just as beer and alcohol advertisements from the 1950s and 1960s involved happily married suburban couples in response to the postwar culture and ideals of the male bread winner and his housewife (1881); and later, the insecurities of deindustrialization and the declining value of wages created ads depicting leisure as lifestyle in 2002; one could argue that the recent recession and increasing power of women in Corporate America is what’s behind the established businessman. He is strong, adored and noble. He worked his way up from the bottom, has stayed true to his roots, and in his world, women are either whores or grandmas, no threat to the man. His character and lifestyle is created through a series of ads. The one I’ve chosen develops the man as strong, successful and with “Taste above all else”.

In this ad, Jameson arm-wrestles over 57 men, beating every one of them. Behind his strength is the urgency to protect his life’s work, his secret distillation process. It’s an honorable cause to the violent outbreak. Further, he and his opponents are in a warehouse full of a couple dozen barrels of Jameson’s whiskey. It might be his distillery or the back room of a storefront. In any case, one knows his whiskey is in high demand and therefore, business is going well. We can see the conviction in John’s eyes. None of the men will beat him, but they can sure try. He wears a vest, well-groomed hair and his signature beard, all signs of his high status and that he is a gentleman. Meanwhile, the next man on line is shirtless with suspenders and another hides his huge belly behind a butcher’s apron – both signal that the men are part of the working class. But Jameson’s whiskey business is so successful, that his rivals include pompous, top-hats too. Last, the one similarity between this alcohol ad from 2013 and the ones from 2002 is the presence of a “hot chick,” or in this case, possibly a whore. The only woman in this scene is sitting at the front of the line, next to all of the action, maybe waiting to depart with the victor. The sleeve of her dress is strategically slipping off her shoulder, just enough to lead curious eyes to her bosom. With greasy, tangled hair, a fist in the air and knees apart, she’s garish, not quite the corset-ridden lady we expect. She may not be ideally beautiful in the way previous hot chicks have been, but she is readily available and on a mission to please.

Through these images, the Irish whiskey company tells consumers that they need not fear failure in a down economy. Contrary to the leisure lifestyle, the established businessman tells them they should have moral character and work hard to get ahead because that’s what strong men do. In addition, considering where these ads were placed, on NYC trains, we can assume its target audience are men and boys traveling to work or school, the cities working and middle class, presumably those hard-hit by the down economy and socioeconomic climb of women.

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