It has been one of the more unlikely celebrity endorsements; John Lydon, a member of the seminal punk band the Sex Pistols, advertising Country Life butter. But it appears to have worked.
Dairy Crest today said the campaign, featuring a spiky-haired Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, dressed in tweeds, had helped lift sales of the brand by 85% in the most recent quarter. Lydon, once better known for sending chills down the spine of middle Englanders, now appears adept at sending them to the chiller cabinet.
I don't know how much of that 85 percent can actually be attributed to the ads. I do know that the campaign is genuinely entertaining -- much more so than the Pistols' dimwitted Mountain Dew spots, not to mention the last few PiL records -- so I'll praise it anyway. Bravo, butter boys.
Before some Brit John Banzhaf sues Rotten for increasing England's cholesterol counts, I should remind readers of the usual pattern in cases like this. With a familiar product like butter, the general effect of advertising is to make established users switch brands, not to persuade people who had been eating their bread plain all these years that they really should try this newfangled "spread" stuff. Rotten may have changed the way people think about the Country Life brand. He probably hasn't altered their perceptions of butter.
Bonus Johnny Rotten trivia: He's a fan of former Reason editor Virginia Postrel's book The Future and Its Enemies, and he hosted both Virginia and Nick Gillespie as guests on his long-defunct Internet radio show. I think Nick will agree that one of the high points of his career was when he innocently asked Rotten why the punks never embraced Margaret Thatcher.