Sid Lee’s backwards thinking for Quebec brewer

Back in the 1980s, the concept of backwards masking somehow took hold.  Some believed that popular bands like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Queen had been deliberately inserting pro-drug or satanic messages like “so here’s to my sweet satan” into songs like “Stairway to Heaven.”

The idea caused more than a few bustles in the hedgerows of Christian conservatives, and sent some impressionable youngsters—like my cousin Phil and me—scurrying to their dads’ expensive hi-fi system to hear what all the fuss was about (a bunch of indecipherable jabber that could be anything you wanted it to be).

The hysteria peaked with a notorious 1990 trial in which British heavy metal band Judas Priest was sued by the parents of two teenage boys—who alleged that they were inspired to commit suicide after hearing the messages “let’s be dead” and “do it” in one of the band’s songs.

That case was eventually dismissed, but not before the band’s lead singer, Rob Halford, was memorably asked to sing the song—in open court.

The backwards masking frenzy eventually died down, but is being resurrected 40 years later as part of a new campaign for microbrewery Le Trou du diable (Devil’s Hole).

Developed by Sid Lee, the campaign is built around a radio ad featuring what is being described as “the devil’s language”—basically a voiceover played in reverse—running on stations across the province. The ad ran for seven days, from Oct. 16-23, gradually changing to reveal more clues.

It drove to a dedicated website where people could hear other tracks, including what it’s describing as an “auditory tasting” of the brewery’s eight featured beers.

The brand also created an official album that it sent to Quebec influencers including content creators, journalists and radio hosts to drive people towards the website. On the website, people can play the album backwards—which is actually forwards—to hear the hidden message.

“We can’t wait to see how the community reacts to the language of the Devil,” said Trou du diable’s assistant brand manager Marie-Michelle Rioux. “It’s the first time we’ve added a voice to our brand, and in our opinion, Halloween is the perfect time.”

Chris Powell