So there has been quite bit of talk lately about how beer is sold by the ‘big guys’ in the beer scene, there is a suggestion that their constant portrayal of beer drinkers are fat slobs who fish, sit around on eskys and ignore females is hurting the overall image of beer.
This has been fuelled by two things; Canadian Club’s latest over beer ad (they must be pleased that it’s got people talking) and by Matt Kirkegaard’s articles here and here. He was even nice enough to stop by this here post to continue the conversation with me.
I have to admit I wrote that post without actually doing in research. But Matt’s responses got me thinking, what is the reality? What have the big guys, CUB (owned by SAB Miller) and Lion (owned by Kirin) been up to of late?
CUB – I’ve had a quick look for the latest television campaigns from their biggest brands. There is a fair bit of spend here too, CUB have spent $7.2 million since the start of 2011, most of it on Carlton ($1.9 million) and VB ($1.5 million). And the short story, although there are a lot of different approaches here, there isn’t a beer drinking slob to be found anywhere, it possible CUB are more enlightened than we think?
Cascade – ‘Brewed by Feel’, okay there is a strange version of what wheat looks like, but certainly no fat guys, clearly going after the hipster Tasmanian market (is there such a thing?).
Crown – We all know this concept is a crock of shit, but it does almost have some connection with the actual brewing of beer which is nice to see even if taken literally you would assume there is only five ingredients in Crown – one of them being time which as the ad states you can’t catch or keep so how they get it in bottle is anyone’s guess.
Carlton – Okay so there is some dodgy dancing and that arse crack shot still freaks me out, but again no boats, no sports, no eskys, and a nice friendly pub (although people do more in pubs than playing darts, watching sport and eating steaks).
Fat Yak – The ad we all love – Fat Yak’s Yaktion Promo, it’s a sport sponsorship, but with a twist.
Pure Blonde – This ad is a long long way from bogans, I mean it has a Simon and Garfunkle song in it, even if they couldn’t afford the original.
Corona – Although they don’t have the license anymore, they were running these international ads for Corona. Great simple concept here, shit beer but the ad almost makes me want to drink it.
VB – So we all know this is where the argument will fall apart, but even VB doesn’t actually use fat bogans in a boat anymore. This ad is complete nonsense, ice and beer the perfect combo, that’s just perpetrating the ice cold beer myth. But there is actually normal looking people and even women at this BBQ and no cricket to be seen.
Lion – They are actually a much bigger television spender than CUB – in fact across their seven biggest brands they spent $16.4 million since the start of 2011, double and a bit CUB’s spend (gee I wonder why they are growing so much quicker?) but let’s play spot the fat bogans.
Tooheys Extra Dry – Their biggest brand, clearly aimed directly at, wait for it, deer, there is even a nice mix of male and female deer there (you know someone at the ad agency had to work that ratio out, poor kid, probably didn’t even get to share the good cocaine.)
Hahn Super Dry – They love the word dry don’t they? More nonsense, sort of like an adult version of a Cadbury ad, not sophisticated but not hugely damaging to the beer brand either.
Boags Premium – I friggen love these ads, they even suggest that water is important in making beer, although why everything is magical in Lion’s world I don’t understand. And what makes it premium? It’s in black and white.
Boags Draught – The common folk need colour and movement and a voiceover to explain it but still a great ad, although I did spot a boat in there, so we are bogan-adjacent.
XXXX Summer Bright – It’s surprisingly hard to find a copy of this ad, which I find weird given the target audience, but a great summery vibe for gen Y kids (even if the logic of sun and a clear bottled lager doesn’t really mix).
Tooheys New – I was all ready to say the Beer Economy ads were not too bad, sure they relied on the blokey concept of mateship but they were harmless enough. But then yesterday they launched this. Father in Law jokes, fat guys in saunas, boxing, and weight training. Cliched much?
XXXX – If the Tooheys News wasn’t bad enough, XXXX is where most of the problems are, this has every stereotype in it you can possibly think of, truly awful.
So there we have it, rather than claiming that all beer ads paint us as beer swilling morons dodging salad and fishing all day with mates, we should lay the blame wholly and solely at the feet of XXXX Gold (and maybe stable mate Tooheys New). I could suggest that XXXX Gold are targeting Queenslanders (and in fact the ad spend number shows regional Queenslanders) and that explains the 1970’s attitude to mates, chicks and beer, but that would seem a little cruel to Queenslanders. Although let’s remember this is the state that gave us Joh Bjelke Petersen, Pauline Hanson and Clive Palmer so they have a fair bit to answer for.
I should also mention that the restriction on what you can show in beer ads also doesn’t help with the creation of realistic beer ads. For instance did you know you are not allowed to show people being more socially successful by drinking alcohol? But that’s a post for another day.
So where does the perception come from? I guess it’s just one of those ingrained things, taught to us by years and years of ‘Hard earned thirst’ ads. Most of the big beer brands have now moved away from that positioning, but it takes a long, long time to shift perceptions like this one.