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“It works every time.” At least that’s the hope of malt liquor brand Colt 45, which is bringing back its former spokesman, actor Billy Dee Williams.
The actor is best known for playing the smooth-talking Lando Calrissian in the original Star Wars films, and for serving as the smooth-talking ad spokesman for Colt 45. Williams will reprise his role as the star of a marketing campaign for the malt liquor brand owned by Pabst Brewing Co., USA Today reported.
Williams—whose acting credits also include Brian’s Song—served as Colt 45’s ambassador from 1986 to 1991. “I suppose that it has always been a part of my life because I put a face on it and a voice to it for so many years,” Williams told USA Today of his relationship with Colt 45.
His return is not without controversy: Colt 45’s advertising campaign has been criticized for its tagline that suggests that the malt liquor could be used to get women intoxicated quickly. That certainly seems to be the implication from ads in which Williams previously appeared. In one TV spot from his previous campaign, he appears alongside a woman, drinking a Colt 45 can, and says, “I don’t claim you can have a better time with Colt 45 than without it, but why take chances?”
Those censures have been combined with Colt 45’s large can sizes, some as big as 40 ounces, and the fact that malt liquor higher alcohol content than many beers.
Williams’ appeal might also stem in part from race, as malt liquor advertising often targets minority consumers. A 2005 study from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles also found that malt liquor drinkers in L.A. were more likely to be homeless and unemployed than other types of drinkers.
Regardless of race, liquor advertising often targets men, implying that consumption will make women more sexually available.
“Colt 45 would be no exception: Billy Dee Williams represents suave sex appeal that many men of all races might aspire to,” branding and communications consultant Tracey Riese told USA Today.
Pabst is certainly hoping Williams’ reprisal will have that effect. The campaign comes as Colt 45 has fallen behind other malt liquor brands—such as MolsonCoors-owned Mickeys and Olde English—in sales.
The brand told USA Today it reached out to Williams, now 78, because he “played a major role in the success of Colt 45″—a sentiment on which the new marketing campaign seems to be tapping into.
“The world moves fast, but change isn’t always a good thing when you got it right the first time around,” Williams says a voiceover in a new 15-second spot. “Because sometimes a true original doesn’t need to change a thing. It works every time.”