After six years, Kokanee kills the Ranger

August 18, 2008  |  Jeromy Lloyd  |  Comments

Four months after his life was put in the hands of online voters, the Kokanee Ranger has met his end under a bus, ending a long-running ad campaign for Labatt Breweries’ Kokanee beer.

In a two-and-a-half minute ad that aired only during Global’s British Columbia broadcast of Family Guy on Sunday, the Ranger, wary that “Kokanee headquarters” wants to “kill him off,” meets various characters from his ad campaign at a diner. The setup is noticeably similar to the final episode of HBO’s The Sopranos.

After playing a song on a tabletop jukebox, the Ranger sees several shady characters enter the diner. During a conversation with Arnold, his sidekick, the scene cuts to black. However, unlike The Sopranos’ abrupt and ambivalent ending, the ad plays the blackout as a gag—the power went out in the restaurant. When the lights come back on, the Ranger, glad to still be alive, leaves the diner and is run over by a bus.

The ad, which was meant to air just once, marked the end of the four-month “Live or Die” campaign, during which people were invited to go to to vote on whether Kokanee should keep its spokesman or replace him. Over 430,000 Canadians cast their ballot.

In the closing days of the campaign, the vote tallies were so close that two endings were filmed for the final ad, with the winner ad slotted in at the last minute, said Rich Fortin, national marketing manager for the Kokanee brand.

“We had a couple of internal objectives in terms of how many people we’d get coming to the site and how many people would vote, and we blew them away,” Fortin said. “It totally exceeded our expectations.”

The Ranger campaign was created in 2002 by Toronto agency Grip Ltd., which also did the final ad.

Fortin said he was happy with the campaign’s entire six-year run, but saw “Live or Die” as an opportunity to interact with customers in a way the brand had not done previously.

“This was our chance at a big idea that could play out over a bunch of platforms—a fully integrated program across media, on-premise, retail and PR. It’s not every day you get one of those ideas,” he said.

The final Ranger ad can be viewed at, and on YouTube. Fortin would not provide details on the next phase of Kokanee’s advertising.

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