The rise of Boddingtons in the 90s was a triumph of advertising and smart marketing. It had been brewed in Manchester at the Strangeways Brewery for centuries and sold to pubs in the North-West.
In 1989 Whitbread took over and massively upped the marketing budget. What had been a northern ale with reasonable regional sales became a hugely popular beer sold and advertised nationwide.
The unlikely figure of Frankie Howerd fronted the TV ads from 1987 until 1991, shown in the North-West only. At that point Whitbread brought in Bartle Bogle Hegarty to handle advertising.
The result was ‘The Cream of Manchester’ campaign. Stylish, witty and cool they prepped a TV and print campaign that took the element of creaminess associated with the ale and used it as the basis for the whole campaign.
In the print ads, run in lads’ magazines like FHM and stuck on the back cover for maximum coverage, the beer was pictured served in a glass shaped as an ice cream cone.
And in the TV ads we find women using the head of a pint of Boddingtons as face cream, drinking it instead of using suncream, and in a parody of the Cornetto ads we get gondolas on Manchester’s canals.
And, of course, we get a runner springing across the desert to catch an ice-cream van serving pints, to be asked ‘Do y’wanna flake in that, love?’ by Melanie Sykes.
Now this all came as Manchester was becoming the coolest city in Britain: the time of Oasis and the Happy Mondays as the city underwent its cultural revival.
And sales of the beer rocketed up. Selling and marketing nationwide took sales up threefold, with the Boddingtons’ share of the beer market peaking in 1997. It became the fashionable drink for a while.
And then, as with all fashions, it disappeared and the drinkers moved on. The BBH campaign ended in 1999, and sales dipped during the noughties. Advertising ceased, sales went down, and the Strangeways Brewery, a Manchester institution since 1778, was closed down and demolished in 2007.