– 29 May 2013

We have come to expect a certain kind of dry, wry humour from Savanna, the cider company. The catch-phrase, ‘It’s dry, but you can drink it’ lent itself to various dry-but-funny/punny barroom scenarios, usually featuring Barry Hilton as the dead-pan bartender, Larry. (‘Do you know your monkey stole my Savanna?’ ‘No, but if you hum it, I’ll play it.’)

Now the scenario gets sillier, but no less funny. Savanna steps out of the bar and into an offbeat fantasy world, courtesy of slightly cheesy blue-screen effects and a charisma-laden presenter: an afro-topped dude with an infectious enthusiasm for the new canned cider beverage. Because yes, Savanna is now available in cans – and that’s the simple message of this ad.

Humour has always been the mainstay of this brand’s personality, whether it’s a print ad that gives you your ‘R&B singer stage name’ or a Facebook competition that sends a group of buddies to tour the world’s most bizarre pubs.

Even though it is made using Granny Smith apples, Savanna has embraced the lemon, and a lemony-yellow colour as a distinctive and very recognisable brand element. This is due to the tradition—allegedly started by Cape Town barman Dale Raines of La Med—of serving the cider with a lemon-wedge in the neck of the bottle.

But let’s get back to commercial – a yellow-themed office with its yellow-suited dude. If the character looks familiar, the reason is because we’ve met him before – when Savanna launched the (larger) 500ml bottle. He was ‘Mr Bigg’ complaining about everything getting small – cell-phones, food, even dogs. “Make it bigger!” he shouted into an oversized telephone receiver.

This time the hero of this Savanna ad has a different complaint. “What’s up with all this negativity?” he asks; “People saying ‘You can’t do this, and you can’t do that.’ Well, here at Savanna, ‘can’t’ is a four-letter word. Which is why we’ve launched Savanna… in a can!”

Yes – it’s a cringe worthy corny line, but the execution is so spot on that it all kinda works. Here it’s the charismatic performance of the presenter, combined with the just-this-side-of-tacky special effects that bring an irresistible giggle. I watched the ad more than a few times, and Savanna_caneach time couldn’t resist laughing.

“It’s lighter!” declares our hero, suspended from a yellow hang-glider. “It’s tougher!” he exclaims, on the back of a horse with cowboys racing behind him. “And it’s more versatile!” he shouts delightedly, skiing down a hill (in a yellow jumpsuit).

Cans, we are told, are more ‘can-venient’, because you can enjoy your Savanna anywhere. Each of these scenarios features our smiling hero, superimposed on a moving background. The blue-screen effect is just on the edge of ‘fake’ – so clearly this was not a big-budget production. Which goes to show that a good idea trumps a big budget every time, especially when it comes to comedy.

Since its launch in 1996, Savanna has grown to become the world’s third-largest cider in the world, after mother-ship Distell’s Hunters. The world’s no. 1 is UK’s Strongbow, which is distributed internationally by Heineken, and had a few decades head-start in this splintered market.

Savanna’s marketing has focussed largely on the ‘quirkiness’ of the brand: the iconic stumpy bottle, with its clear glass, very much in the tradition of the pale Mexican beers that competed with the lagers and ales of the world in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. When Savanna was launched, the trend of drinking beer from a bottle had just begun to catch on in the States, as up ‘til then, the can had been king. This, along with the lemon-wedge, became part of the charm, the tradition that grew around the brand.

Well, it’s hard to see how one is going to be able to jam a lemon-wedge into the new can, but then again, this is all new territory for Savanna, so let’s see if the more ‘can-venient’ packaging helps sales for this iconic brand.

Savanna (and Draftfcb) proves once again that humour – if well done – can be a powerful way to promote a brand’s personality. Tell me – who doesn’t love a wry smile or a good belly laugh?