I don't remember the year this ad came out (I think it was about 5-6 years ago). What I do remember, is how angry I was. Basically, its a commercial that Heinekin did about the birth of scratching. Scratching is when a DJ moves the record back and forth on the turntable to create various pitches and tones. Its probably one of the most revolutionary evolutions in the history of modern music.
In any case, in the above ad, Heinekin mocked the history of its creation and angered a lot of people within the sub-culture of Hip-Hop. Looking back, I can see how some people may say "Well, aren't you guys being a little too sensitive"? Maybe. But then again, maybe not.
This was a widely played ad. Many people who saw it, were mainstream American folks. Many of whom, don't like or play, or care about rap music, DJ'ing and things of that nature.
Many people in the Hip-Hop community saw it as a MISSED opportunity to share the true history of Hip-Hop and still make a good ad. "So how was scratching invented" you ask? Great question. It was invented by a young African American guy in NY, named DJ Grand Wizard Theodore. Below is the essence of how scratching was created:
"According to legend, Theodore invented scratching largely by accident, circa 1977 (when he was about 13 or 14); holed up in his bedroom playing records, Theodore had to pause to hear his mother scold him about the volume, and happened to move one of the records back and forth. He liked the sound and played with it often, developing the technique until it was ready for public performance. Flash picked up on it quickly, and Theodore in turn began copying Flash's acrobatic record-spinning tricks (using his elbows, feet, etc.). By the time the '80s rolled around, Grand Wizard Theodore was one of the top DJs in New York. He hooked up with a crew that was most often billed as Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic 5 MCs, which released the cult classic single "Can I Get a Soul Clap" in 1980 on the Tuff City label. The group never recorded a proper album, but they did appear in the 1983 old school hip-hop film Wild Style (which later became a cult classic); they recorded several songs on the soundtrack and appeared in an MC battle sequence with their chief rivals the Cold Crush Brothers. While Grand Wizard Theodore never received the same wide acclaim as Grandmaster Flash during his career, he was eventually rediscovered by hip-hop historians, which helped him land some international DJ gigs in the '90s. He also appeared at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 1999 hip-hop conference, and teaches advanced classes in the art of DJing. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide"
Where Heinekin went wrong is, they made a joke of an ad about music history, without considering how they could have made a cultural connection with their intended audience at the same time!! Complete and total cultural fail here. Everybody can take a joke, but when the real history of a people or culture is already ignored and obscure you can't connect to them by making a joke of their history.
Truth is, Heinekin could have used a parody of the above story to make an ad and used Theodore. Even if they stuck with the script, they could have used Theodore or another well named DJ. That way the Hip-Hop audience would have known "OK, they used Theodore, so they do know the history and this is just as joke". The way it was done, many Hip-Hop fans saw Heinekin made a joke of the music they love deeply. They even had a petition to remove it from the air, make an apology and all that. I remember, because I signed it.
These kinds of mistakes in advertising don't have to happen. Just a little homework, and a little cultural consideration can go a long way. Trust me.
Mix Master Mike (Beastie Boys DJ) ripping wax with Blues record Robert Johsonson from the Documentary Scratch
Grand Wizard Theodore produced this track for the movie Wild Style (all serious Hip-Hop fans around the world know and love this beat)
To show the long term cultural impact of Theodore listen below:
Nas Classic Illmatic (possibly the best solo rap record release EVER) uses Grand Wizard Theodore to open his record
NOTE: Every time I cover how an advertiser fails, I plan to provide resources for people to use so these kind of mistakes don't happen again. So, if you missed the hint: GO GET WILD STYLE AND THE SCRATCH DOCUMENTARY!!! Have more respect for Hip-Hop in your ads and you'll get more brand loyalty and penetration than you could ever imagine.
-Beyond Urban Branding