Did a 1990s-era Internet meme inspire "The Most Interesting Man in the World" TV commercials for Dos Equis beer?
Spoiler alert: Turns out no, at least according to the company that created the popular ad campaign in 2006, but asking the question did let me find out who did inspire the commercial series -- that answer is interesting - and it also turned up something of a coincidence.
I was prompted to ask the question after reading this fictitious college application essay that's been rattling around the Internet since as early as 1990. Here's how it starts:
This is an actual essay written by a college applicant to NYU in response to this question:
3A. IN ORDER FOR THE ADMISSIONS STAFF OF OUR COLLEGE TO GET TO KNOW YOU, THE APPLICANT, BETTER, WE ASK THAT YOU ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTION: ARE THERE ANY SIGNIFICANT EXPERIENCES YOU HAVE HAD, OR ACCOMPLISHMENTS YOU HAVE REALIZED, THAT HAVE HELPED TO DEFINE YOU AS A PERSON?
I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently.
Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row. I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.
There's more but you get the idea ... and if you get the idea you know that this "essay" sounds an awful lot like it was written by "The Most Interesting Man in the World" when he was merely "The Most Interesting College Applicant in the World."
So I sent an email to the company responsible for the "Most Interesting Man" (MIM) ads, Havas Worldwide, and received the following reply from Yvonne Bond, global communications director:
"Any similarity seems to be rather a coincidence. The idea and the MIM was concepted from watching guys in bars brag about all the adventures they purport to have had. And how else to reflect it back but from a humble soul who had actually really done all those things?"
A coincidence. Barroom braggarts. Humble soul. Fair enough.
But here's another apparent coincidence: The writer of the fictitious essay was reportedly applying for admittance to New York University. And the global headquarters of Havas Worldwide is located in ... New York City.
Stay skeptical, my friends.