Bacardi Rips-Off The Cacophony Society With Salmon ‘Swimming Upstream’ Commercial

Bacardi Salmon

Wow this is amazing, alcoholic beverage maker Bacardi totally ripped-off San Francisco’s infamous underground prankster group The Cacophony Society with their upcoming “Bacardi Salmon” (“Swimming Upstream”) television commercial and massive, global “You In?” ad campaign.

Since 1994, The Cacophony Society has had their salmon running in the opposite direction during the annual Bay to Breakers 12K race through San Francisco. The salmon would enter at the midpoint of the course and then spawn their way upstream. The salmon are mini-celebrities at the race and always get a huge cheer as they go by. This well known, 12 year old Cacophony event is called “Breakers to Bay”, and more salmon info can be found on Tribe, as well as photos on Flickr and video on YouTube.

So I was pretty surprised when I was sent a link to the “Bacardi Salmon” commercial. It was developed for Bacardi by the ad agency RKCR/Y&R (Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe, the UK office of Young & Rubicam) , who used the production company Hungry Man, with Jim Jenkins as the director of the spot. The ad steals the entire concept of The Cacophony Society’s Breakers to Bay event, featuring salmon spawning upstream during a foot race through New York (instead of San Francisco). They make no attempt to give any credit to the event’s origins or the person who came up with the idea for the event.

Well I guess if you can’t come up with something original, you can just follow Bacardi’s lead by co-opting someone else’s idea and “run upstream” with it. Oh yeah, be sure to drink a bunch of rum first.

Here’s some of the coverage on this story so far:

San Francisco Chronicle (Leah Garchik) Media Blog (Daniel Terdiman)

The Future Place Blog (Ray Poynter)


UPDATE 1: Here’s an entry on the forums discussing the CG effects used by The Mill to create the ad. Well our salmons don’t need no stinkin’ CG.

UPDATE 2: Here’s a production news article from the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting. My favorite quote from the article is “The agency wanted the Marathon and they wanted the Verrazano bridge. This couldn’t have shot anywhere else”. Um yeah, I guess unless you count the 12 years that it was shot in San Francisco. Man, does anyone ever fact check?

UPDATE 3: It turns out that this was not the first time a major corporation has stolen the idea of the Cacophony salmon run. Back in 2000 Nike created a billboard that “borrowed” the salmon theme.

UPDATE 4: So this is not just some average ad run, Bacardi is planning on spending £70m on global advertising campaign using this commercial along with posters with the “Swimming upstream” theme. RKCR/Y&R pitched Bacardi on this idea for 6 months, an idea that they didn’t even come up with. Absolutely ridiculous.

UPDATE 5: New York actor Jason relates a story on MySpace of when he auditioned for the “Bacardi Salmon” commercial back in April. It’s a nice glimpse into the vapid world of television commercial production.

Scott Beale
Scott Beale

Scott Beale is the founder of Laughing Squid and is based in New York City. When not running the blog, Scott can be found posting on Threads and sharing photos on Instagram.