Carlton Draught and ‘big’ beer ads

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If you’v been anywhere near a computer last year you would have seen the Carlton ‘It’s a big ad’ TVC. it’s one of those ads which never fail to evoke a jaw dropping ‘Wow, what an ad’ and brings a smile to your face. Apart from the spectacular animation, it worked because of its self-deprecating tone. The humour was inward directed and the ad was seen as pure entertainment. They have followed up with another spectacularly big ad, which is as good, if not better than last year’s version. How on earth do they ‘sell’ this to the client? I also admire the client’s guts in approving this based on a sheet of paper called ‘script’.

Categories like beer and cola drinks pose a special challenge to Planners and creative folk. Often there is little or no differentiation and engaging the consumer is a function of creative execution or an interesting proposition. Now, that’s a loose canon. Ads like Carlton attract a lot of attention because of their exensive production. Many feel that they are self-indulgent and do nothing to the brand’s sales. Carlton, for example is not reported to have huge sales gains from the ‘It’s a big ad’ commercial but it certainly created a buzz.

Another brand which is used to mega productions is Guinness, a stout from Ireland. According to Wikipedia, ‘Guinness’s iconic stature is partly due to its advertising. The most notable and recognisable series of adverts was created by Benson’s advertising, primarily drawn by the artist John Gilroy in the 1930s and ’40s. Benson created posters that included phrases such as “Guinness for Strength”, “Lovely Day for a Guinness”, “Guinness Makes You Strong,” “My Goodness My Guinness,” (or, alternatively, “My Goodness, My Christmas, It’s Guinness!”) and most famously, “Guinness is Good For You”.

In 2000, Guinness’ ‘Surfer‘ execution, created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, was named the best TV ad of all time in a UK poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. In 2004, they ran the Guinness Brewmasters campaign which won a Gold Effie award for Advertising Effectiveness in 2005. Last year they had the ‘Tipping Point‘ ad which too was an expensive production. It involves a large-scale domino chain-reaction and, with a budget of £10m, is the most expensive advertisement for the company so far. Recently, they came up with a new tag line ‘It’s alive inside‘. For me this was the most endearing of the lot since it was based on a product feature – its distinctive “surge,” a cascading effect that occurs shortly after being poured. This ad, created by BBDO New York has the hallmark of all Guinness ads – spectacular production.

In India, Happydent was a big ad that was closely linked to the product benefit. I think it heloed the brand. There have been others which failed despite huge production costs – the Bajaj Discover Jackie Chan one. My view is that unless the ad is rooted in the product and delivers a relevant benefit to the consumer, such spectacular spots can become self indulgent. They make great viewing but run the risk of execution becoming the idea and the ad doing little for the business.

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