This Dos Equis ad is currently rolling up and down the Canal streetcar lines in New Orleans.
By referencing beads, those ubiquitous accessories flung with abandon off Mardi Gras floats, the ad clearly is positioned locally. But as a New Orleans local myself, this ad left me puzzled. What exactly is it trying to say?
In case you're not familiar with the pitchman on this ad, Dos Equis calls him the Most Interesting Man in the World. The Most Interesting Man in the World (TMIMITW) is a sort of James Bond character. He doesn’t seem to be a spy, but he takes James Bond's worldly sophistication, physical skill, and sexual prowess to comical heights, and his exploits are put forth in clever one-liners. Here is a taste of a few:
- He once won a fist fight, only using his beard.
- His lovemaking has been detected by a seismograph.
- He is fluent in all languages, including three that he only speaks.
- He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.
- When he drives a car off the lot, its price increases in value.
And now we have this quip parading around New Orleans:
- He doesn't need to throw beads.
Why doesn’t he need to throw beads? Beads are thrown at parades, so my first thought was that TMIMITW is a spectator at a parade. If that's the case, it's true he doesn’t need to throw beads. He catches them. But this interpretation doesn’t make much sense. Dos Equis wouldn’t bother running an ad playing on the idea of TMIMITW in a crowd with everyone else. There's nothing clever about that.
TMIMITW is like a deity beyond the plane of typical humans, so if he were at a Mardi Gras parade, he’d be a rider. He’d be one of the elites who has the connections and the funds for krewe membership. But if that were the case, he certainly does need to throw beads. Otherwise, there would be no point to his riding in a parade. Everyone would be annoyed at him, spectators and fellow krewe members alike, if he rode on a float without throwing anything.
Maybe he's the king of the parade. Parade royalty often do not throw beads. They either simply wave or throw doubloons only. But again, this interpretation doesn't seem right. It's too obscure and, again, not clever.
After mulling about it a while, I wondered if the ad were referencing the practice of men dangling beads off of Bourbon Street balconies as a way to get women to show them their bare breasts. In other words, for TMIMITW, he doesn’t need to throw beads... to get women to show him their naked breasts.
That missing part of the phrase would play into TMIMITW’s persona as someone desirable to women, but locals rarely engage in the beads-for-exposure pastime. Most New Orleanians find it tacky and distasteful. They feel it dishonors so many treasured Mardi Gras traditions. If a krewe member is found doing it along a parade route, he could get kicked out of the krewe or even arrested.
In any case, why is Dos Equis running a Mardi Gras-themed ad at the beginning of summer? Locals only throw or wear beads during Mardi Gras season, and the season peaks in February, or occasionally early March. Also, why is TMIMITW photographed in what seems like a dour, dark library and not in the middle of Mardi Gras festivities?
A Google search led me to this item on Dos Equis' Twitter feed:
It looks like TMIMITW actually did come to New Orleans this last Mardi Gras. Here he is on a French Quarter balcony. And one of his Twitter followers (based in Alberta, Canada, it seems) tweets with the hashtag #BeadsandBoobs.
He's not dangling beads off the balcony, but I’m disappointed in the Most Interesting Man in the World. This is a man who speaks more languages than actually exist. He should be worldly enough to fit in, wherever he goes. He should be too sophisticated to carelessly insult or misinterpret a locally treasured holiday.
This ad either puzzles or annoys most of the New Orleans locals whom Dos Equis is targeting. It's reducing the unique exuberance of New Orleans' Mardi Gras into tired Girls-Gone-Wild vulgarity. That’s not interesting. That’s boring.
Bonus: Here is my friend Bill in costume as the Most Interesting Man in the World during that cold and wet Mardi Gras 2014. He doesn't need to throw beads either, but he would if you asked him to.