If only The Seagram Company could have seen the future they would avoid what Charles Bronfman called, “a disaster, it is a disaster, it will be a disaster…It was a family tragedy.” He was speaking of the demise of his family’s business founded in 1857. Before the company’s ill-fated forays into entertainment and its breakup of assets that were acquired by Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Coca-Cola, Seagram’s developed and owned nearly 250 drink brands and was the largest distiller of alcoholic beverages in the world.
They were also one of the coolest holding companies of all time. The Seagram Building, the company’s American headquarters at 375 Park Avenue in New York City, was designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson. Seagram’s made Canadian whisky a must-have. Crown Royal, 7 Crown, 83 Canadian Whisky, Five Star Rye Whisky, and Seagram’s VO were seen as luxury liquors.
My dad drank Crown Royal exclusively. Open a particular closet in our home back then and you would have drowned in royal blue felt-like bags with a gold tasselled drawstring (later they would be purple). Crown Royal was sold in these keepsake sacs. Kids would keep marbles and other toys in them. Ladies used them for jewelry. My dad housed scores of golf balls in the plush bag.
Seagram’s was a believer in advertising. Their advertisements were always sharp and smart. They never took themselves too seriously but were still sophisticated. After all, they were selling a lifestyle of sorts. This post is about an amazing campaign from the 1940’s that predicted the future including the cell phone, the 3D movie, drone delivery, videoconferencing, and the modern sports bars.
The campaign was called Men Who Plan Beyond Tomorrow. Given Seagram’s aged its VO brand whisky for six years, the idea was to communicate that good things take time but they do happen. Kind of deep huh? What is amazing is how accurate these ads were. Seagram’s seemed to know that technology would take over and social interaction could suffer. They also nailed the fact that it would be all about comfort and convenience. Take a look.
Videoconferencing (February 1943)
“Perfected television and radio telephone combined!” shouted the ad. This businessman is using a color screen videoconferencing system. He is chatting with some ‘across the pond’ but on screen. Wowser.
3-Dimensional Movies (June 1943)
This forecast came 9 years before the first 3D movie hit the screens. Given it was the war years, the idea of planes and soldiers coming alive in the local movie house may have been overwhelming.
Groceries on Wheels (April 1944)
Long before Grocery Gateway, Webvan and now Amazon, Seagram’s claimed grocery delivery would “rush fresh foods to the housewife’s door!”. This was a scheduled stop on every block not by customized order allowing one to browse the goods. I love the hanging bananas.
The Cellphone (October 1944)
The headline yelled, “Today’s weapon, tomorrow’s convenience!” because the military was using early generation personal communications. In this ad the fisherman phones his wife about his catch and asks her to invite friends for dinner. Later he calls her from his car with his ETA not knowing that makes for unsafe driving.
Televisions in Restaurants and Bars (April 1946)
This graphic looks like anyone’s sports bar right down to the size and number of flat-screen TVs. The company’s Canadian roots may have biased the choice of hockey on screen but have you ever seen a Canadian bar during the playoffs?
Drone Delivery (April 1947)
This one blows me away. 70 years before it was much of a thought, Seagram’s predicted that we would be receiving goods from an aerial drop. This Air Express is delivering other drones that will eventually take over the world.
Food Trucks (June 1947)
Here Seagram’s goes further than the local business district taco truck. They saw that gourmet meals would wheel up to your home prepared by chefs onboard. I love that the customer has a couple of stiff whiskies waiting in anticipation.
The Fax/iPad (November 1944)
This TV also produces a newspaper with coverage of the events appearing on-screen. It is news in real-time in different formats or apps, if you will.
All of this may serve to prove that we are more innovative and creative when drinking. Cheers!