Stuart Clark

7 classic beer TV adverts…and a new favourite

There’s a fundamental problem when it comes to advertising beer, which is this: beer is beer. Water, hops, barley, bit of yeast, and that’s it pretty much. There’s no point of difference. The saying goes that people ‘drink the label’. That it’s the branding that wins you over when you’re in the supermarket picking up your 4-pack. So if you’re tasked with creating a TV advert for a beer brand, you have to invent your unique selling point, create a story behind the brand that people buy into. Here are seven classic examples of TV adverts that we think do just that…plus a modern favourite of ours.

Hoffmeister – Follow the Bear

In the 1980s it was quite common for drinks brands to use celebrities to push their products. Famously, Cinzano had a TV campaign fronted by Leonard Rossiter. Now, using celebrities has its benefits: recognition, exposure, associating the brand with someone successful. But there is a danger that people remember the person and not the brand they’re advertising. John Webster of BMP thought so. So when his agency was tasked with creating a TV advertising campaign for Hoffmeister, he tried a different approach, creating a character that the brand could own. In this case, a giant bear, complete with pork pie hat, bomber jacket and a cool, no-nonsense swagger that beer-drinkers bought into in a big way.

Carlsberg – Dream Apartment

Carlsberg has one of those straplines that everyone knows. “Probably the best beer in the world” was the work of Saatchi and Saatchi, back in 1973. Nearly 40 years later and it’s still going strong. Of course, saying your product is the best is very difficult to substantiate, so the use of the word “probably” is inspired. Today the brand’s ads take the tagline one step further, saying that because Carlsberg’s beer is probably the best, if it decided to make things other than beer, those things would also be the best…probably. It’s an absolute gift of a proposition and you can imagine how much fun various creative teams have had with it over the years. Here’s a perfect illustration of what we mean.

Stella – Reassuringly Expensive

The Stella Artois brand was launched in the UK the late 1970’s, though the “Reassuringly Expensive” campaign would run for many years after that. Like all great ideas, the proposition is incredibly straightforward: that Stella Artois only use the finest ingredients, therefore their beer is more expensive. Actually the higher cost had more to do with its higher alcohol content, which attracted greater excise duty. The TV adverts supported this premium positioning, using humour and a kind of cinematic, art-house aesthetic to create spots that gave the brand a strong sense of European sophistication. Here’s one of our favourites.

Budwesier – Whassup

The Budweiser “True” campaign started in 2001. The idea was a pretty simple one: to position the brand as one that understands men and the lives they lead. Never was this more famously executed than on the world-renowned “Whassup?” TV advert. The scenario is so simple and so familiar: it’s just guys drinking beer, watching a sports game on telly. It’s about friendship and camaraderie, the little in-jokes that men share within their gang of mates. And of course, it’s incredibly simple. It didn’t actually originate in an advertising agency, starting life as a short film instead. But that didn’t stop it winning pretty much every advertising award it’s possible to win, including the Cannes Grand Prix award and the Grand Clio.

John Smiths – Monsters

Sometimes a celebrity is just a perfect fit for a brand. Such was the case back in 2003 when Bolton comedian, Peter Kay, became the face of John Smith’s bitter. He plays the straight-talking everyman who’s oblivious to how unintentionally funny he’s being. It’s about positioning John Smith’s as a tell-it-like-it-is, no nonsense brand for men who share the same way of thinking. There were several famous ads in the series: Top Bombing, Football Training, Retirement Home…but this one about the wardrobe monsters is our favourite.

Carling Black Label

If you’ve ever drunk the stuff you may be surprised to learn that Carling is Britain’s most popular beer. Much of its success is undoubtedly down to the famous campaign that started in the early 70s, using the tagline “I bet he drinks Carling Black Label”. The ads would usually position a British man doing something cool or clever, which would result in them outwitting their foreign adversaries. The Dambusters ad is perhaps the most famous, but our personal favourite is this beautifully executed nod to that age-old dilemma: how to beat German tourists to the sun-loungers.

Sunbeds & Heineken – Majorca

Plummy girl is getting an elocution lesson at “The School of Street Credibility”. However much she tries she can’t shift her posh accent, much to the frustration of her tutor. But then “Del” arrives with a 6-pack of Heineken, she cracks one open and in a flash she’s gabbing like Barbara Windsor! There’s definitely something about the British obsession with class in this ad. That aside, the script was something we remember being repeated over and over again in the playgrounds of our youth. And if that isn’t the sign of a classic ad, we don’t know what is.

San Miguel – Una Vida Bien Vivida

A life well-lived, that’s how the slogan translates. So this must be a beer for the well-travelled man. Someone who’s seen the world, indulged in many an exotic experience, “known the lips of many women”. Sumptuously shot with a script that’s a beautiful little slice of magic realism, this is an ad that’s sure to enter the pantheon of great beer commercials.