Terry Heckler’s television ads for Rainier Beer during the 1970s and 80s made zoomorphic beer packaging an integral part of their brand. Using actors in beer bottle and beer can costumes, the zoomorphic Rainier Beer commercials created an alternate universe in which bottles and cans of Ranier Beer were wild animals.
Wildly popular at the time, the zoomorphic packaging costumes are still used by the brand for their quirky (now nostalgic) charm.
In a 2008 interview, Heckler describes their first proposed TV spot (shown above)…
“Rainier Beer contacted us,” Heckler said. “They must have been desperate.”
…Rainier, he said, had burned through every ad agency in Seattle to little effect. Founded in 1884 in Georgetown and with the big red, rooftop R so well-known it was a landmark for Interstate 5 traffic reports, the company fell on hard times, dying in its own market.
“They said ‘OK, what can you do for us?’ ” Heckler remembered. “We were their last resort. They wanted something different.”
So what Heckler and Associates did in 1971 was create an ad, now considered a local classic, that shows a through-the-windshield view of an off-screen couple and child driving through a national park. The wipers are like a metronome. Through the rain they see a “Beer Crossing” sign. Then, a family of 6-foot Rainiers (two bottles and a can) darts across the road.
“Oh! Oh! A whole herd of Rainier beers,” the woman says. “They’re just so fresh and friendly.”
The Rainier executives were not sure what to think.
But they approved the campaign. What followed over the next 16 years not only made Rainier Washington’s most popular beer once again…
Under the Needle: A vote for beer over politics
Mike Lewis, October 8, 2008, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
(Several more zoomorphic Rainier Beer spots, after the fold…)
Marie MacCaffrey notes an unexpected high turnout for the filming of the “Wild Running Beers” spot in which the beer bottles do a running-of-the-bulls thing in downtown Seattle…
Wild Running Beers
The first thing that gave us a hint that this was going to be big was the running of the Rainiers. Rainier Beer was doing the promotion where they anthropomorphized the Rainier beer bottle by putting little legs and feet on it and pretending it was a wild animal. They decided to film an ad in Pioneer Square with Rainier beers running through the streets like the running of the bulls in Paloma. Over 10,000 people came down to participate. Way more then they needed. No one was expecting that.
–Marie McCaffrey, HistoryLink
In the ad above, the zoomorphic bottles, again representing bulls, parody a Merrill Lynch ad—although “beerish” is more of a homonym for the opposing “bearish” financial outlook…
This Rainier Beer TV spot from the early 1980’s is a parody of the Merrill Lynch “Bullish on America” TV commercial. Rainier is “Beerish on America.”
A few more of the Rainier ads from this series…
See also: Packaging Costumes