06th Dec 2018
Ilegal Mezcal is a brand of mezcal (a traditional South American spirit) from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. In July 2015, the founder John Rexer came up with the idea for a guerrilla advertising campaign that would make a bold statement about the brand, its values and its feelings towards Donald Trump. Initially, the company posted several thousand posters in New York featuring a silhouette of Donald Trump, the brand name and the message “Donald, eres un pendejo” (“Donald, you’re an asshole”). The same message was later spread via posters and spray-painted signs in cities such as LA, and then the company went one step further with prominent public projections in Philadelphia and Manhattan. The company also promoted an event called #ashotatdonald, which invited readers to join Ilegal Mezcal for a drink at 75 participating bars around the world on 19 April 2018.
This outspoken, overtly political approach was effective for a number of reasons. Above all, it is important to stress that boldness, political awareness and a certain disregard for the rules are central to the brand’s identity. The company makes no secret of the fact that its founder originally smuggled mezcal from Mexico to his bar in Antigua, Guatemala, and it has long prided itself on its engagement with issues such as immigration reform. By using colloquial Latin American Spanish instead of English, the campaign divided readers along linguistic lines. Ilegal Mezcal cast itself the voice of the former – a group comprising people in the brand’s target Spanish-speaking countries and Spanish speakers within the USA, who are likely to be immigrants or people of Hispanic descent. The brand also carefully timed projections to coincide with other events for maximum impact, including Donald Trump’s turn hosting Saturday Night Live in 2015 and International Women’s Day in 2017. The campaign was featured in media outlets including VICE, The Guardian, Fusion, NY Daily News, Gothamist and Eater, and helped raise over $30,000 for charitable causes. It received a Gold Distinction in the Wine, Beer and Spirits category at the Annual Shorty Awards 2017.
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