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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Let There Be Beer? Let's start again.

This weekend sees the re-launch of the marketing campaign formerly known as Let There Be Beer. After the disappointment of the last campaign, can it redeem itself?


Disclosure and disclaimer: I have been paid for my time to act as a sounding board for the development of this campaign and to say a few words at the launch event. I have not been paid to endorse it in any way and would not risk my reputation by writing anything about it that I did not believe.

There was never any doubting the intent, or that it was a good idea on paper: a generic campaign that promotes all beer, that seeks to get people who have stopped drinking beer and stopped going to pubs, people who turn their noses up at beer and think that wine - any wine - is intrinsically better than beer - any beer - people who think that beer is just lager and lager is just for football hooligans - to think again about beer, to reappraise it, to question their bias.

It was a great idea in principle. It's just a crying shame that the first attempt at executing such a campaign, funded by a collaboration of the world's biggest brewers, was so disappointing. 


The big-budget launch ad was a let-down, and it just went sharply downhill from there. By the time the ad was banned from TV thanks to a coordinated campaign by neo-prohibitionist twats, it was almost a mercy killing.

Let There Be Beer has been carrying on in the background, and some of the low-level PR stuff has been quietly improving, selling beer on its diversity and getting promoted features in national press pushing beer as an accompaniment to various activities and events. But mostly the campaign was keeping its powder dry, having a rethink, bringing on board new executives and new agencies, chucking the money that couldn't be spent on the old ad into the pot for a new approach that wasn't going to be launched until it was right.

Along with representatives from CAMRA and the big brewers, I was invited in at various stages to see work in progress. Immediately, the difference in approach was obvious. The thinking last time had been that people who were walking away from beer just needed to be reminded how great it was, and if Big Lager was pretty much the only product featured, well, Big Lager was paying the bills.

But consumer research and industry comment both pointed out that people hadn't simply forgotten about beer. How could they when it's still being promoted so hard in the pub, at the supermarket and on the telly? 

Beer had become commoditised, boring, taken for granted. The last thing people needed was to be reminded of what they already thought. They needed their perceptions changed.

So the new campaign set out to get people to think again about beer by focusing on beer's variety, its quality and its versatility as a drink. You could write books on this - and many beer writers have - so it was decided that a simple way to launch this approach was to focus on beer's suitability with food. 

This doesn't tell the whole story because that's an impossible task for one ad campaign. But it's a great place to start - anyone who's taken part in a beer and food matching dinner knows what a powerful way this is of changing opinions. More and more alcohol is drunk with food these days. And it's classic wine territory - even when people start off drinking beer, they switch to wine when the food comes out simply because they think That's What You Do. And when beer has managed to alienate 50% of the population by being boorish and sexist in its advertising for decades, meals are a great way to make it seem more refined and suitable for everyone.

So, once again, the theory is great. How do you make sure the execution works this time? By hiring one of the best film directors in the country, and persuading him to make his first ever ad.

Michael Winterbottom (24-Hour Party People, The Trip) can shoot people brilliantly, food wonderfully, and he loves beer. Here's what he did.


It's real and naturalistic, and avoids all the cliches of the first film. It's warm. And it does that thing that's so hard to do - show modern Britain in all its brilliant diversity without seeming forced or contrived. 

Trainspotters can sit and pick up the different beer styles in each scene. We can go online and discuss a particular scene and whether the Beer For That really is a wheat beer, or maybe it's a pilsner or a pale ale, and I'm sure many of us will. You can argue they should have mentioned more beer styles by name, or should have shown more shots of pubs, or more hipsters, or fewer hipsters.

But you have to look at the broader takeout here. Most people won't take away specific beers from this campaign, whether we're talking Carling Zest or Weihenstephan weissbier. What they will hopefully take away is that beer is part of the cultural fabric of our lives, that's it's versatile and rewarding, that it can be everyday or special, craft or mainstream, ale or lager, big or small, and that however much you think you know about it, it's always got something new to offer.

The target audience for this ad is people like my wife's friends who still think I'm eccentric for being a beer writer, who smile indulgently and ask if I've ever thought of writing a 'proper' book, and who always, always choose wine - because That's What You Do. I can imagine then watching this ad, then asking hesitantly, "So... what beer DO you think I might like with my Chow Mein?"*

And the best thing is, if anyone thinks they have an idea to make it better, the framework is now there for us all to input, for people who know about beer to pool their knowledge so it can be communicated more widely. There's a massive social media element to the campaign that will be launching over the next few weeks, and Tim Lovejoy will be nowhere near it. Instead, beer writers and beer sommeliers will be providing beer match suggestions to hundreds of dishes on Twitter, and hosting live social media 'beer clubs' on classic styles. (I'm doing Belgian beers on 28th November). If you think you can do better than what's out there, the nice thing is that, this time, they'd love to hear from you and for you to get involved.

For me, this campaign puts right pretty much all of what was wrong with the last one. It's what I hoped the last one was going to be. The timing of it is perfect. I believe people are open for this kind of message right now, and think 'There's a Beer for That' will capture, solidify and amplify the current excitement around beer.

You'll always be able to pick faults in a campaign like this, that has to go through careful research validation and approval by committee. But it's a bold and extraordinary move on the part of the big global brewers to celebrate so much of beer, so far beyond the core of mainstream lager. This isn't a campaign to promote craft beer or real ale or mainstream lager; it's a campaign to promote all beer.

I like it. I hope you do too. Whatever your tastes, this is a good thing for beer.

*OK, they don't really eat Chow Mein. We live in Stoke Newington.

17 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

It's not at all naturalistic, Pete. All those perfectly full glasses, with uniform head thickness. Hardly anyone actually drinks. It looked to me like a video about having beer put in front of you, rather than actually making a choice or enjoying the taste. It needed more Ice Cold in Alex moments.

It's a nice idea but I really can't see how a generic beer ad can work in the way that a generic milk or egg ad works. The specific names of beers are intrinsic to the diversity. Does anybody really ask for "a strong dark Belgian beer; I don't mind which one"?

Pete Brown said...

Don't sweat it BN - the joys of shooting food and drink under hot film lights... of having a drink that doesn't wreck continuity when you're trying to edit rapidly shot footage... these things still give me a twitch and my last direct involvement in such things was years ago!

The Beer Nut said...

So much for my "There's A Ciggy For That" storyboard.

Kevin said...

This is a tricky one for me - I like the overall aims and aspirations of the campaign and everything around the social media campaigns sound interesting.

The two parts that sit somewhat uneasily for me is the advert and the individual referencing of the beers.

I am not a fan of the advert myself, I think from a purely creative standpoint its mediocre at best. It doesn't have any element that are memorable or loveable, but instead offers only a notion of 'whatever you like - theres a beer for that'. As a concept this is, again, 'ok'. But for me it fails to really say anything new about beer. It doesn't, for example, do anything to address the issue you outlined - that people choose wine with food as its the 'thing you do'.

So the notion of saying 'whatever you do - theres a beer for that' does ring painfully of design by committee like you outline, where people couldn't agree on a single strong concept so went for an overlay generic one.

So from this aspect, I am a bit uneasy that much of the campaign seems to be centred around this creative.

The other challenge I feel the campaign has is the recommendations of beer. Wine (or cider in some respects) for many people is the easy option, its a no brainer - 'I usually have this and so I will have it again as its easy'. Therefore I fear that to tempt many people, individual examples will need to be given - to make the process easy and to say 'give this one a try, maybe just this once...'

This then raises the obvious question of - which beers to recommend? Which I wont go into as it obviously opens the question of the funders vs other breweries (not involved in funding the campaign).

Overall, it will be really interesting to see how this relaunched campaign develops and what it has to offer. I am hoping for some interesting and interactive elements in the coming months


Is there any notion of how the success of this campaign is being measured? As I feel if we knew that, it would be much easier to say how we think it could be improved and would also elaborate on what the ultimate aim of the campaign is.



Phil said...

Beer/food matching will be a good way in for some, but not for everyone (I confess it leaves me cold) - so I hope the follow-up isn't all about that. I liked the fact that the ad was a lot broader - the "that" that there's a beer for included "when you're tired after a long walk", "when you're going out with your mates" and "when you fancy a pint" (love the man-bun - and the reaction shot!).

Yeastismybitch said...

Once the more aspirational lifestyle/cookery shows to start cracking open decent-looking and alluring beer styles rather than over-priced plonk, we'll all be much better off.

Maybe the supermarkets might like to start dividing their beers up by region and style, too.

Starting to treat beer like something that's a bit of an event to open will also make it much more appealing.

I think the wider availability of 750ml "sharing" bottles of interesting styles like Saison and imperial stout will get folks interested.

20 years ago you over-heard this "oh we had a bottle of that Jacob's Creek Chardonnay the other night, it was lovely - all fruity and went well with the roast beef"

2 years time I hope to over-hear: "We cracked open a bottle of coffee and vanilla imperial porter...it went really well with walnut cake we baked"

I live in hope...

Justin Mason said...

It's interesting to hear your take on this advert and it's clear that on this occasion they have consulted people that actually know about beer.
I wasn't fortunate enough to be there yesterday but having read some of the negativity on twitter yesterday I was expecting something far more 'big brand lager' led rather than the plethora of beer styles represented in the advert itself. The tune was rather jolly and some of the images seemed forced, however by temporarily removing my beer geek sunglasses I could see that the message was clear and concise.
What I would have liked to see was a link to a beer and food matching website or app, but I'm assuming/hoping that these things are in the offing. I'm interested to see how this progresses as I think that this might be the right approach to take.

Alan said...

"I have been paid for my time to act as a sounding board for the development of this campaign and to say a few words at the launch event. I have not been paid to endorse it in any way and would not risk my reputation by writing anything about it that I did not believe."

It's very good of you to put this so clearly. I have a job that is am enthusiastic about which, yes, I also get paid to do. It is good to do good things but you have to leave the risk to reputation to others to judge. You have endorsed the thing you have been paid to participate in. I create arguments for others to use to advance their interests. We do a good job even though - despite even - the reputational risk. Hard to do a good job otherwise.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Well it did for me.
I reckon it's a pretty good ad for a notoriously difficult subject.

Ed said...

I thought the ad was alright, and the twitter negativity just a tad over the top.

The 'Let There Be Beer' website was all about food and beer matching when I looked at it the other day. And I think they're some sort of service where if you tweet them a type of food they'll tweet back with a suitable beer.

Neil Walker said...

The man-bun scene is the best bit in the whole thing for me. Needed more moments like that.

I do like it though.

The first advert made me wince whereas this is warm and fairly natural. The name is much, much better too.

Wilko said...

Love it!!
at last a simple ad we can all easily relate to.
there IS a beer for everyone and all occasions.....

Martyn Cornell said...

"having a drink that doesn't wreck continuity when you're trying to edit rapidly shot footage."

If you've never studied it, the scene in the bar at the end of Ice Cold in Alex is worth watching just to see how the levels of beer in the glasses zoom up and down between shots.

"There's a beer for that" failed to grab me personally, but I'm not the target, so ...

Wilko said...

Love it!!
at last a simple ad we can all easily relate to.
there IS a beer for everyone and all occasions.....

Beer Farts said...

For me, people's ignorance towards beer stems from a lack of knowledge of beer itself. While this idea may take a baby step towards helping a very small number of people understanding the diversity of beer and maybe even the history of beer, I very much doubt it will make any significant impact.
To be honest, people thinking that beer is just beer is what works for the beer giants that are funding this campaign. They rely on the customers’ limited options and knowledge. As people realise what real beer is, the different types of beer there are, they will drink them and steer clear of the watery, poor quality, commercial beers.
While beer sales as a whole may be declining slowly, Craft Beer sales are booming and that is having a major impact on those beer giants. I see these ads as nothing more than a masked campaign by those corporate snakes to brain wash fresh meat. Those that have seen the Craft Beer light will not return and do not need these ads to remind them how good beer can be.

Pete Brown said...

"To be honest, people thinking that beer is just beer is what works for the beer giants that are funding this campaign."

Then why, BF, are they funding a campaign to change that perception among a general audience who haven't yet discovered craft beer?

I think you're arguing against yourself here. I also think you're over complicating it. Beer is shrinking. Interesting beer is growing. Telling more people about interesting beer gets more people drinking beer. There's no conspiracy here.

Beer Farts said...

Pete, maybe you are right. Maybe I am looking too deeply into this. You'll have to forgive my pessimistic outlook on this, I'm possibly still scarred from seeing the original ads where Tim Lovejoy suggests pairing foods with Fosters Gold. Bad times.
If this campaign does get new people talking and (more importantly) drinking beer than fair play to those responsible. Cheers!