April 20, 2008

Intrigued by multiple class discussions as well as by Sonny’s video clip presentation, the original focus of our group’s media literacy project was going to be viral marketing.  Several of us surveyed students to find out what kind of Internet advertisements they enjoyed watching and how they discovered these kinds of videos.   One of the Internet ads that we stumbled upon during our research was for an energy drink called Powerthirst. 

The ad (as you can see from the clip above) is over the top.  The deep, in your face, high energy, masculine voice, mimics that of the stereotypical football coach, an army sergeant, or maybe even a professional wrestler.  The audio content and visual representations are even more compelling, more fast-paced, more masculine.  The initial image reveals a pair of twin, superimposed, neon-green tinted body builders sporting skimpy bikini bottoms while flanking a can of Powerthirst.  The picture of these strapping, male icons guarding their beloved, muscle-building beverage is repeated throughout the video. 

The ad continues its appeal to young men, claiming in the same repetitive, vigorous voice that Powerthirst drinkers will be good at sports.  There is energy and tension in the names of the Powerthirst flavors, Shockolate and Rawberry.   But it’s the hyperbolic claims that make the ad so funny and outrageous.  Rawberry is supposedly made with real lightning.  And how about Powerthirst’s sexual vitality and conquest claims?  Does four hundred babies sound manly enough?     

While none of us had ever drank or even heard of Powerthirst before we saw the video, the name seemed to fit perfectly with the forceful, high-speed, fast-paced labeling trend that dozens of energy drink manufacturers have used to market their products:  AMP, Blow, Cocaine, Full Throttle, Hype, Monster, Nitro2go, Red Bull, Rockstar, Powertrip, Pure Power.  And Powerthirst’s marketing themes, while a little extreme, aside from the lack of X-games style sports hero sponsors, aligned neatly with the masculine intensity seen in numerous other upstart energy drink advertising schemes.

But even though the name and the marketing themes seemed believable, due to the outrageous nature and content of the ad, as critical thinkers we still had our doubts as to the authenticity of the product.  The blatant Kenyan stereotype and the literary humor in the form of “turbo-puns (these aren’t your dad’s puns)” like “menergy” were almost too much.   After a little research our suspicions were confirmed.   We discovered that the Powerthirst energy drink video was actually an ad parody created by a comedian Mark Little, a member of the comedy group Picnicface.  This revelation sent our media literacy project in a different direction altogether, and we decided to examine internet parody, the very phenomena we had inadvertently discovered in our search for authentic viral advertising.

Still intrigued and amused by the Powerthirst spoof, we decided to investigate it further and discovered that Picnicface had made a second energy drink video, “Powerthirst 2: Re-domination.” 

Added to the original’s content are numerous phallic symbols, the mockery of Powerade’s glowing sweat, and the ridiculous claim that “Powerthirst is crystal meth in a can” (making fun of the energy drink Cocaine?).

In comparing both Powerthirst videos with  genuine energy drink marketing (the critiques of several energy drink products and ads can be found in the posts below), we recognized that Mark Little and the Picnicface group must have had sufficient background knowledge concerning the current trends and explosions in energy drink products and advertising before creating their parodies.  This discovery leant itself to a practical classroom application of Internet video parody.  Students could be required to research particular advertising movements (as we did with energy drink marketing) alongside video parody of the phenomena.  Or if video parody does not already exist, they could be required to create their own commercial spoof based upon a specific marketing trend.  This is the kind of assignment that goes beyond the grade. 

While Picnicface may have an agenda aside from fun and social commentary for creating digital videos (the promotion of their tours and products; their website even has a donation page), there are tens of thousands of Internet videos created every day, most of which are not intended to make money.  There have even been numerous Powerthirst knock-offs created by Youtube users.   

According to Youtube statistics, the original Powerthirst video has been viewed almost six million times.  Almost thirty thousand viewers have participated in rating the video (four out of five stars is the average rating), over sixty two thousand have tagged the video as a favorite, almost eleven thousand have contributed comments, and twenty videos have been created directly in response (there are many other Powerthirst spin-offs posted on Youtube that are not directly linked to the original).  The parody itself has become an Internet phenomenon. 



April 20, 2008


Have you ever wanted to jump someone’s car using your nipples? Well, if you drink AMP’s energy drink, you can do just that. Attach jumper cables to your nipples and the car that needs a boost, crank the engine, and voila! The car will start. Not only will you have enough amps to start the car, but you’ll also be a dancing machine.

At least, that’s what the commercial above suggests. With a sense of humor and exaggeration, the advertisers for AMP energy relay the message that drinking an AMP can pump you up, giving you an abundant amount of energy.

The AMP commercial targets the same audience as the majority of other energy drinks– young adult males. However, unlike many of the other energy drinks, AMP uses humor rather than sexual content (attractive women, implied enhanced manhood, etc.) in order to attract viewers.


April 16, 2008

As soon as you open Monster’s website you’re slapped in the face with masculinity, whether it be in the form of the color scheme (black and neon green), the celebrity sports figures that they sponsor to help carry their brand (Rick Thorne, Travis Coyne, and Roger Lee Hayder, to name a few), or their featured bands (Rob Zombie, Buckcherry, etc.).  It’s clear that this company (Monster Beverage Co.) has an unlimited amount of resources for advertising as they are able to hire/sponsor such well known names, bands, and brands. (This is also mentioned in their wikipedia article.)

The theme of the site is best described as Frankensteinesque.  The celebrities (athletes, bands, allies, and monster army) help to make up their troops (who are fighting the war against other energy drinks?).  All the drinks have been created in “the lab.”  Even the logo looks like a giant scratch from a male monster (like Frankenstein’s?). 

Monster logo.jpg

 Their own written advertising goes something like this, “Tear into a can of the meanest energy supplement in the planet.  MONSTER energy.  We went down to the lab and cooked up a double shot of our killer energy brew.  It’s a wicked mega hit that delivers twice the buzz of a regular energy drink” (taken directly from their website).  The advertisers use virile, animilistic words to capture the attention of their target audience, young males desperate to enhance their masculinity through beverage selection.  You go boy!




April 16, 2008

It’s hard to believe that marketing for a product can be done almost entirely based on a name, but Cocaine is that product. Targeted for America’s youth. Even the powdery-like writing is designed to fuel the same fascination that makes the younger kids chew cigar-shaped gum (or did they stop making those things due to their blatant irresponsibility).

Cocaine was created in September of 2006, by James Kirby and Redux Beverages. There has been a substantial amount of discussion about the implications of using the name “cocaine” (an illegal street drug) for an energy drink:

After less than one year on store shelves, Cocaine was pulled by the FDA on May 7, 2007 due to drink’s name and its claims to be–as the former slogan implied–“the legal alternative” to the street drug as well as a dietary supplement. Since May 2007, Cocaine is again available to the masses after the company battled for its name.

In addition to the illicit implications of the name, there are also concerns about the amount of caffeine found in the drink (over three and a half times the amount found in Red Bull and other energy drinks).

It’s clear that the makers of Cocaine are targeting teenagers and party goers, not only by their interviews, but also by their marketing. Hannah Kirby, a spokesperson for Redux said, “We knew we would get noticed against a thousand other energy drinks. We knew kids would find it cool…” Knowing that young people would be intrigued by the name, Redux continued to pursue young consumers with by sponsoring concert tours, as well as building a Myspace page and a website that requires parental permission to enter. If a visitors click no, they’re sent to watch this YouTube video:

It’s clear that the makers of Cocaine are telling their public that only the cool kids can drink Cocaine; otherwise they should just drink their grandparents’ energy drink: Coke (which used to contain cocaine, which is funny). Only cool kids who like German music, black metal concerts, shopping at Hot Topic, writing to their Attorney General in Texas in order to allow Cocaine to be sold, and being part of the Cocaine social network (yes, they have their own) are allowed to partake in the festivities that are liquid Cocaine. Oh yeah, and they have their very own Minterfresh Cocaine Girl. She’s pretty, right?

Energy Drink Reviews

April 13, 2008

Need an energy drink?  Not sure which one’s right for you?  Screaming Energy is a website dedicated to reviewing every energy drink under the sun.

They take their work seriously, but only to an extent.  They analyze the amount of standard energy drink ingredients (caffeine, taurine, etc.) in each drink for the serious energy drink connoisseurs, but each review is written in a ultra-casual, sometimes vulgar tone.

Make your next trip to your local gas station’s energy drink section an informed one!

Red Bull

April 13, 2008

When you go to Red Bull’s website, you are bombarded with images of various athletes in action and a box in the right hand corner featuring Red Bull’s latest product, Red Bull Cola. Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler and motorcyclist Travis Pastrana are both young, famous male athletes that have found success in their innovative and daring sports. In addition to Sheckler and Pastrana, many other young male athletes are featured on the site’s revolving homepage. In fact, all seven different pages of the homepage feature various nontraditional athletes, all of whom are spokespersons for Red Bull.

Red Bull’s website clearly focuses on attracting young males who are interested in extreme sports and want lots of energy. Red Bull proclaims that it “improves performance, increases concentration and reaction speed, increases endurance, and stimulates metabolism.” While the website and commercials may target a young, male audience, Red Bull argues that anyone who needs a boost of energy can benefit from drinking a Red Bull. “Top athletes, busy professionals, active students and drivers on long journeys” are all people Red Bull suggests could benefit from drinking their product.

While Red Bull’s USA website is not as vulgar as some of it’s energy competitors (Rockstar or Cocaine), some of its commercials are overtly sexual and male oriented. The commercial below, found on Red Bull’s website, features a family of dogs, including a large brood of puppies. The commercial seems rather innocent until the dog drinks Red Bull and his tail sticks straight up. The commercial suggests that by drinking their product, Red Bull has the ability to improve male performance in the bedroom (but is it enough for 400 babies?).

The video below is from Red Bull’s earlier ad campaign. Surprisingly, it’s much tamer than Red Bull and its competitors’ later advertising. Aladdin’s first wish is to be “as sly as a fox.” Since this wish is granted by the genie giving him a Red Bull, it is to be understood that Red Bull can improve the mind. The focus of this ad is therefore not entirely geared towards improving the body.

In addition, while the images in this ad are not blatantly sexual, some of the verbal content could be interpreted as a sexual reference. For example, one of Aladdin’s three wishes is to be “as big as a bull.” Aladdin flexes his biceps when he makes this statement, implying that maybe Aladdin could use some “menergy.”

Brawndo–It’s Got What Plants Crave

April 12, 2008

Mike Judge’s little-seen 2006 movie, Idiocracy, is a satire of our society’s eventual dumbing down. Average American, Joe Bauers, is selected by the military for a human hibernation experiment, only to wake up 500 years into the future. There, due to the world’s least intelligent people procreating much more than the world’s more intelligent population, Joe is now the world’s smartest man, a future day Gulliver in a land of moronic Yahoos.

Director Mike Judge has a penchant for poking fun at America’s societal incompetence (see Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, and Office Space). In his depiction of future America, advertising is omnipresent (Joe befriends a man named Frito); the president is a professional wrestler; and all of the nation’s farms cannot produce food…because water has been replaced with a giant corporation’s sports beverage, Brawndo.

Gullible to the false claims in Brawndo’s advertising, the future’s citizens are convinced that Brawndo has “what plants crave”: electrolytes. Brawndo’s history and Joe’s attempt to convince the President’s cabinet to give the plants water starts 3 minutes into the following clip:

Despite a lackluster performance at the box office, Idiocracy managed to cash in on some cross-promotional products. That’s right, thanks to Redux (the people who brought us Cocaine, remember?), you can actually buy Brawndo: the Thirst Mutilator. Taking a cue from Powerthirst, there’s even a tongue-in-cheek, Powerthirst-style YouTube advertising campaign.

The Irony of it All

April 12, 2008

The Powerthirst parody ad would not exist were it not for the initial ridiculousness of the energy drink craze. The world ran pretty smoothly without energy drinks for millennia, and those people had real work to do–plowing fields, building pyramids, handwriting thousand-page texts. If those societies managed without an extra little kick from a beverage, then why do we–a society of at-home shopping and online P.E. classes–need an expensive beverage to keep us from nodding off at work?

The simple truth is that most of us don’t. Most of these energy drinks purport themselves as the beverage for the active teen, but what they’re really selling is the illusion of being an active teen. Liken it to having a bike rack on your car to make passers by assume you spend your weekends pedaling away in the woods; most energy drink purchases likely stem not from a need for an energy boost, but a desire to appear like an individual whose life is so exciting that an energy boost is necessary.

Some consumers, however, do think their sedentary lifestyles require that extra little boost of alertness. For example, the energy drink market recently collided with one its most likely demographics: hardcore World of Warcraft players. Those looking to finish an expedition of the hugely popular online role-playing game overnight can now order (so long as they’re 12 or older) actual WoW-themed Mana Energy Potion for about $4 per three tablespoons.

Energy drinks likely do have a somewhat genuine market among a population of graveyard shift workers and truck drivers. But that’s a small population, and teenagers spend $94.7 billion (that’s a “b”) per year. That’s a chunk of marketing power, and these energy drink companies realize it. Combine those susceptible teens with the almost everyone in America who feels like their lives are just so non-stop busy that they need a little something to get through their incredibly easy day, and energy drinks have a pretty deep pool of consumers.