I’m only here for the beer

There are many reasons why I prefer living and working in Canada to Britain, but beer advertising isn't one of them. The current state of this great nation's beer advertising fills me with an almost bottomless despair, especially since I was raised to believe that beer advertising's rightful place is at the leading edge of the industry's creative capabilities.

There are many reasons why I prefer living and working in Canada to Britain, but beer advertising isn’t one of them. The current state of this great nation’s beer advertising fills me with an almost bottomless despair, especially since I was raised to believe that beer advertising’s rightful place is at the leading edge of the industry’s creative capabilities.

Beer advertising is difficult, which is why it should be consistently good. It all comes down to great insight coupled with great creativity, brought to life in great executions funded by apparently limitless budgets.

We have had our high spots in my nine years of residence here, but ‘Rant’ and ‘Street Hockey’ turned out to be one-offs rather than great campaigns and the Bud Light Institute has been dropped, much to the chagrin of the creative community (I suspect the success of Coors Light, especially with the rapidly growing female consumer, made them question the wisdom of a campaign that targets only men, great though it was.)

And Molson’s basic idea of ‘It starts here’ is generic, not a brand insight. In my experience, whenever it did all start with a few beers with my mates, it usually ended in something that would haunt me for months.

Sleeman seems to be the only brand making a real effort to differentiate itself, while our lead brands seem to be stuck in a cleavage from which, Austin Powers-like, they cannot or will not extricate themselves. Take a

look at the spoof ad for Tits&Ass beer at www.allowe.com/Humor/video.htm#BeerAds and you will realize they’re talking about us.

It’s difficult to evaluate ads without knowing the brief, but we can at least categorize the ads here and in Britain by the basic storylines where 1 = none at all and 4 = lots.

Bradley’s rating of beer brands in Canada (left) vs the U.K.

In Britain, there is no reliance on dateless wonders and pneumatic young totty; but a huge focus on a differentiation message, done in a style (usually humour) that appeals to the target.

The best is Boddington’s, a beer (up until recently) brewed in Manchester and noted for its very creamy head. A 10-year-long campaign, ‘Cream of Manchester,’ spoofs ads for other creamy products, like ice cream and features actors with Manchester accents (think Coronation Street), a great differentiator. It’s unique, relevant, clever, funny and has grown the brand sixfold.

I think the difference is how research is used.

Focus groups seem to be taken much more literally here. Young men saying they like to look at voluptuous young females isn’t a brand insight, it’s just a fact of life. So leave them to get on with downloading porn to their mobiles and stick to the advertising task at hand.

As well, British advertising tends to demonstrate product authenticity as a way of creating consumer trust, given a world where people know when they are being bull-shitted.

I also checked around some other countries to see how typical Britain was, and the only market I found still doing it the T&A way was Australia. And they at least manage to integrate the tits into the creative idea.

Twenty-plus years in marketing were enough for John Bradley; he left to do other things which interest him. He writes this column to help the next generation of marketers simplify an overly complex profession. He values and responds to feedback at johnbradley@yknotsolutions.com.