Beer history marketing

Red Storm Rising

‘Surely there must be a picture of one of these posters we can include?’ said our editor at Aurum when he read the passage about the campaign for Watney’s Red in Brew Britannia.

The ads were controversial because they used lookalikes resembling communist dictators to promote keg bitter — a (ahem…) left-field approach for a big Tory-supporting UK brewery. As a result, it was referred to in numerous articles and books from the 1970s, and much-mocked by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). So, yes, you’d think there would be some documentary evidence of its existence.

But, after much searching, the only image we could find to include in the book was this one, scanned from a contemporary magazine:

Watneys Red Army poster c.1972.

It gets the point across but it’s not one of the classics — where’s Fidel Castro? The snap of a billboard illustrating this article at Retrowow might have done the job but the web editor there didn’t know the source, we couldn’t track down ‘Edward Hahn’ ourselves, and couldn’t get access to a higher resolution copy, so that was a dead end.

But now, more than a year on, we’ve finally got our hands on this:

Long live the Watney's Red Revolution!

We found it accompanying an article by Roger Protz on the demise of Red in the Summer 1980 edition of CAMRA’s What’s Brewing (a short-lived magazine distinct from the monthly newsletter). It’s a poor quality scan of a poor quality half-tone reproduction of a poor quality photograph of a billboard from c.1971 so, no, it’s not a great image, but it’s the best we’ve seen.

But there’s more: thanks to photographer Steve Rosson’s efforts in digitising and sharing his early work we also now have this shot of the posters in some sort of context, with the full line-up of Khrushchev, Mao and Castro providing a fitting, ironic backdrop to a political protest:

Steve Rosson's shot of protesters marching in front of a Watney's Red Revolution poster c.1969.

(Reproduced with permission — thanks, Mr Rosson!)

We’re hungry for more, though:  If you come across a shot of one of these posters, especially in colour and/or high resolution, we’d love to see it.

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