After posting on the Guinness and Murphy’s ads I thought I’d continue looking at how beer in general has been sold on British TV.
I’ve got a series of posts to come on individual beers, but I’ll start with a few general observations…
Guaranteed: Beer Feeds Your Creativity
To win a brief selling beer must have been like manna from heaven for advertisers.
For a start budgets have tended to be high.
And plenty of scientific testing has shown that punters can’t distinguish between individual beer brands. So they’re unlikely to be basing their choice of drinks on flavour.
This is where advertising brings its added value to the product. Creating a brand with a bit of buzz around it becomes vital. And that gives a lot of room to the advertisers to let their creativity run wild.
And the key beer demographic encourages the use of gags, humour, and wit. Beer companies need to be hitting the male 18-40 group with their marketing – a group typically interested in comedy.
So there’s licence to go for it for creative directors, art directors and copywriters.
Looking through beer ads you see certain structures and traits stick out.
Taglines are king.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait. Reassuringly Expensive. Refreshes the Parts Other Beers Cannot Reach. I’ll Bet He Drinks Carling Black Label. Australian for Lager. The Cream of Manchester. Australians Wouldn’t Give a XXXX For Anything Else. No Nonsense. Remember a Pint of Best? Courage Do. Follow the Bear. Smoothly Does It. Probably the Best Lager in the World…
Films have given plenty of inspiration to beer ads.
Holsten Pils ads took the collage techniques of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. Stella Artois took their lead from Jean de Florette.
The classic before-and-after structure is much in evidence, too.
Tired and weary? Try our product. Now look at you go! It’s the basic structure behind the Heineken and Carling Black Label ads.
Or you sell on the beer on one quality. The creaminess of Boddingtons. The smoothness of Tetley’s. The northern no-nonsense of John Smith’s. The London-ness of Courage. Take one quality and go for a walk with it.
Or you stress the worth of your beer. What would you give for a pint? Your wife in the case of Castlemaine. A whole cartload of beautiful flowers in Stella’s first big ad of the 90s.
Does Lager Have to be Marketed as Foreign?
To sell ale stress the ‘realness’ of the product. It’s real beer with real heritage. Uncomplicated, no nonsense, genuine beer.
To sell lager, so the cliché goes, give it spurious Continental or foreign roots, even though it’s made down the road in Manchester or South Wales.
It’s true, in part. Kronenbourg got into trouble in 2014 about their ‘Farmers in Alsace‘ ad with Eric Cantona as the beer was made in the UK.
When Whitbread tried to launch a British lager known as GB it flopped.
And Stella, Foster’s, Castlemaine were all made in the UK despite advertisements that ran on their foreign roots – even if they say ‘Brewed in the UK’ in the corner the viewer is effectively part of a game of willing make-believe.
But the most successful lager of all, Carling, curiously enough a Canadian brand, used British comedians and good-old British dry wit in their ads. And their beer sold better than any other.
Does Any of this Actually Work?
The huge question. I’ll try and look at each case individually in the posts that follow.
Certainly beer ads seep into popular culture. Just think of ‘Top Bombing‘ and ‘Ave It‘.
And according to some accounts creative advertising was responsible for changing the nation’s drinking habits away from ale and towards lager in the 70s.
There’s a counter-argument to that, and I’ll look at it in post on Heineken.
But the rise of beers like John Smith’s, Boddingtons, and Stella Artois in the 90s has to be down, at least partly, to their huge ad campaigns, even if there are factors like pricing, distribution and promotions to consider too.
And once the ad campaigns stop in many cases the beers wither and die. You’ll struggle to find Boddingtons these days, or Hofmeister or Castlemaine in the UK, despite their once famous ads.
It’s even possible that great advertising contributed to their fall. If you become the fashionable drink on the back of cool ads, you have to be prepared for the drinkers to one day move on to the next fad.
So let’s begin – with the wonderful Courage ads….