Does Licking an Ad Count as Falling Off the Wagon?


Russian Standard wants you to “enjoy the taste of Russia” by tonguing its new vodka-dipped “lickvert” in the Guardian. The maker of this ever popular liquor-drink took out a quarter-page ad that encouraged people to “Please lick responsibly.” All I want to know is where I can find the discarded copies of the paper in New York. I’m gonna get trashed tonight!

Okay, so really this was just an April Fool’s gag, but it wouldn’t have been so effective if it weren’t based in truth. Liquor companies like Hornitos, Capitan Morgan, and Skyy have all used a new ad technology called “Peel ‘n Taste” that’s being pioneered by First Flavor. Peel ‘n Taste basically uses those thin dissolvable strips — think Listerine Fresh Breath — to give you a sampling of the goods before you commit to buying it: the tang of margarita mix, the zing of key lime rum, and the sweetness of passion fruit vodka. The flavor strips were used in liquor stores and direct mailings for non-alcoholic demonstrations, and the results of those campaigns were pretty good. Then things got a little, well, icky.

Instead of sticking with an individualized format, Welch’s Grape Juice actually did run a lickable ad in the pages of People magazine in February 2008. Just peel back the label and taste the Welch’s… unless somebody else in your doctor’s office did the same before you. (Eeeewwww!) I always was partial to the lickable wallpaper in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it did creep me out to think that there may have been other who had come before me who may have been partaking in the same snozberry spot. I’m not a germophobe, per se, but I do draw a line at swapping saliva with strangers.

So the juice makers returned to the singular format that came before, passing out Peel ‘n Taste coupons in grocery stores to individual customers wandering the isles. But you know there are other ridiculous and disgusting things can you do with flavorful ads, and you also know that advertisers will try almost anything once if they think it might get your attention. So why not make a flavor strip that will prevent kids from smoking and encourage current smokers to quit? That’s just what Tobacco Free Florida did with their “i Care. i Don’t Smoke” campaign.

Thank goodness it came with a label (“This product may cause nausea, offensive breath and loss of taste for several hours. A lot like smoking a cigarette.”) otherwise the ashtray-flavored taste strip may have caught Florida college students off guard. Just think of all the opportunities for pranksters that Tobacco Free Florida initiated. Scented ads make sense for this one, but nearly literally licking an ashtray might have been a bit much. You might get olfactory overkill by picking up an issue of Glamour that got too much funding from perfumeries, but at least it’s not likely to induce vomiting.

So the next time you see a Skittles ad imploring you to “taste the rainbow,” they might mean that literally. And be wary of friends who offer you “breath strips”. Make sure you see them stick one in their own mouth first.