The most interesting man in the world has a most interesting retirement plan. Dos Equis released a video on March 10 showing its dashing spokesman, played by 77-year-old actor Jonathan Goldsmith, blasting off on a one-way trip to Mars.
Dos Equis’ parent company, Heineken USA, told Ad Age that a new actor will take over the role starting this fall, with the goal of giving the campaign a fresh spin. I don’t know what Dos Equis has in mind, but I do know what the beer brand should do: Replace the most interesting man in the world with a world-class older woman.
The wildly successful campaign has been credited with helping Dos Equis to triple its sales since Goldsmith debuted in the role back in 2006. The character’s appeal is easy to understand: he offers viewers a chance to indulge in the ultimate fantasy of suave masculinity while laughing at the ridiculousness of that ideal. He was Sean Connery crossed with Ernest Hemingway and Inigo Montoya: romantic yet tough, cosmopolitan but never a snob. He ran with the bulls, hobnobbed with royalty and hauled treasure chests from the ocean, pausing occasionally in his adventures to release a bear from a steel-jaw trap. Meanwhile, Dos Equis showered its frontman with intentionally nonsensical compliments: “He speaks French in Russian.” “He’s on the upgrade list for flights he hasn’t even checked into.”
In essence, the most interesting man was both tongue-in-cheek and—like his fellow internet meme Chuck Norris—nonetheless aspirational. It’s nearly impossible to imagine an ad campaign that would create an entire mythology around a sophisticated, daring older woman. And that’s why Dos Equis should go for it.
Popular culture has historically embraced a wildly uneven double standard for men and women of a certain age. Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford and their ilk can chase down bad guys and dismantle atomic bombs despite qualifying for Social Security, while women generally stop qualifying for onscreen adventures at first sign of crow’s feet. It’s fine for Dos Equis to show its septuagenarian most interesting man flanked by beautiful women who look to be a third of his age, but heaven forbid that advertisements acknowledge that a woman over age 50 might be both sexually desiring and desirable. (To be fair, Budweiser did release a Super Bowl spot starring Dame Helen Mirren (age 70), but the ad was about giving drunk drivers a tongue-lashing–not celebrating her formidable appeal.)
Yet we are blessed to be surrounded by exceptionally badass older women. Imagine the glamorous unpredictability that Mirren would bring to the role, or the crisp mystery of Joan Didion (81) peering at the ruins of a long-lost city over her sunglasses. Anjelica Huston (64) is so saucy that beers probably open themselves for her when she arches an eyebrow at them. Patti Smith (69) could give the Dos Equis campaign a punk-rock edge. Soul legend Bettye Lavette (70) has grit and serious underdog cred. And if Dos Equis and Heineken are serious about appealing to millennials, they need look no further than Jessica Walter (75), beloved by younger generations for her wry, hard-drinking portrait of Arrested Development’s Lucille Bluth.
Not only would casting a woman in the role strike a blow for gender equality, it could help Heineken and Dos Equis further their professed goal of setting the new campaign “a bit more in today’s world.” The female protagonists of today’s superhero shows and dystopian blockbusters are helping young boys learn to empathize with female protagonists, while millennial men are tuning into Comedy Central to watch women-helmed shows like Broad City and Inside Amy Schumer. It’s still true that men are largely encouraged to admire and relate to people of their own gender, but we seem to be at the beginning of a sea change. Now Dos Equis has a golden opportunity to get ahead of the competition.