Weasely Carling Ads


Phase one of the new Carling campaign was bad enough. But in phase two, the ad men have reached a new low. Get a load of this from the voiceover:

“Carling know it’s important to check their barley themselves.”

A few questions spring to mind:

  1. What is “checking” barley?
  2. Is “checked” barley better than any other? As in, “Yeah, I checked the barley — it’s absolutely awful, but we got it cheap.”
  3. They know it’s important, but does that even mean they do it? Whatever it is.

So, here’s our proposed slogan for phase three:

“Carling know that beer is supposed to taste nice.”

Something to worry about?

Meantime seem to have convinced pubs all over London to take what we’re assuming is a kegged London Pale Ale. Its green badge has been appearing on big tacky chrome fonts all over the city in the last few weeks, following a successful launch as a bottled beer in some supermarkets earlier this year.

We’ve always been fans of Meantime’s range and haven’t even minded that they don’t, on the whole, bother with cask conditioning at their pub in Greenwich, because their beer simply tastes so nice. But this keg product breaking out into the wild could be a problem: people who run trendy bars and gastropubs are likely to give up on cask ale altogether if they’ve got a decent-tasting, nicely marketed keg alternative.

Then again, have we perhaps moved to a point where the method of dispense, all though a good rule of thumb when it comes to quality, isn’t the be all and end all? There are some very boring cask conditioned ales that, although ideologically sound, taste much worse than some of Meantime’s kegged products.

Is it kegged as we’re assuming? Has anyone tried it? Is it the same beer that’s sold at the Union as Pale Ale, latterly known as “Late Hopped Blonde’? If you have any information, the Kilroy production team would like to hear from you.

Sales of (mostly terrible) beer down

According to advertising trade mag Marketing Week, sales of the top beer brands are down 5 per cent up to April 2008.

The biggest drops are in sales of Kronenbourg 1664, Stella Artois, Carlsberg Export and Grolsch. Sales of John Smith’s Extra Smooth and Carlsberg (ordinary) are up.

Their say that the current ‘drink-aware climate’ and England’s absence from the European Championship are the main reasons.

The first certainly sounds plausible to us. People we know seem to be much happier ordering a shandy or a ‘weak beer’ than they were a couple of years ago.

And, of course, there’s been a huge defection to cider from beer, as witnessed by booming sales of Strongbow.

Stella up to their usual tricks

A slick CGI image from the weasely new Stella ad
A slick CGI image from the weasely new Stella ad

The geniuses behind Stella Artois really are trying to convince us of the historical worth of their brew. A new advertising campaign on the telly makes lots of intriguing references to “1366”, obviously designed to suggest that this is when the beer originated.

A bit of digging around their website makes it clear that a brewery existed in Leuven in 1366… Apparently, thanks to the “courage” of some medieval monks, Stella Artois exists today. Er… If you dig around on their website, it’s quite clear that whatever happened in Leuven in 1366 has sweet Fanny Adams to do with Stella Artois.

The funny thing is that they keep making reference to the “four ingredients”. But which four? Is this the barley, hops, maize and water proudly boasted of in their billboards? If you go into their site, they have five (not four) mini-films to illustrate different “challenges” of brewing. Hops, water and barley get a mention, as does yeast (unlike in the billboards). The fifth challenge of brewing has nothing to do with making the beer, but is to do with exporting it.

Oddly, maize isn’t mentioned in these adverts. But it would be a bit tricky to square with this historical heritage angle, given it originated in Mesoamerica and therefore would have been unknown to the good burghers of Brabant in 1366.

I’m sorry, but this kind of mock historical bollocks really, really gets on my tits. Fortunately, the campaign is way too inconsistent to fool anyone.

NB – we’ve not linked to any of the Stella pages so as not to increase their presence on the interweb. You can find it for yourself if you have nothing better to do. But you really ought to have something better to do.

UPDATE 17/08/08: image added.

Weird marketing from St Austell

A vicar in front of a pub

St Austell have taken to spamming us with press releases (a bit annoying, but we do like the beer, so what the hey).

The above photo is part of their latest weird attempt to generate interest in the beer. To cut a long story short, the local vicar did a service in a pub.

Frankly, Stella Artois might taste rancid, but their marketeers know how to make a silk purse from the proverbial sow’s ear. St Austell’s, on the other hand… their beer is fantastic, but now I’m thinking: “It’s what Cornish vicars drink. Great — that’s a lifestyle I aspire to!”

The really scary thing is, when the picture was taken, the vicar was on his own. Those people in the background only showed up when it was developed. He… he sees dead people!

Beer blogging as marketing tool

First, Stella started their blog. I’m not linking to it as I don’t want to increase their Google rankings, but you can read Stonch about it here, A Good beer blog on it here, and Tandleman discussing it too. The blog itself is pretty dull, and aside from adding a few beer blogs to its blogroll to look authentic, it makes no attempt to go out and engage with the blogosphere.

Now it looks like Becks are having a go, and advertising for a beer blogger. The advert’s on the front page of their site if you fancy applying, although I think liking Becks might be an “essential” rather than a “desirable” part of the job spec. Also they specify you have to be between 21 and 30 – age discrimination, surely? The age requirement now seems to have disappeared from the website – someone’s realised they’re subject to EU law.

At least making it a full time job means that they might be making more of a go of it – i.e. presumably this blogger will be going around the blogosphere, doing the rounds, taking part in debates, perhaps even linking to others. It sounds like Becks “get” blogging a bit more than the Stella people do and realise that it’s not just a case of posting corporate pearls of wisdom and expecting a buzz to create itself.

Even so, it’s difficult to see what they’re trying to achieve from this. Firstly, it ain’t gonna work – the beer blogging community isn’t going to suddenly start plugging Stella or Becks just because someone writes a blog. We’re a bit too savvy for that, surely? Secondly, even if it did work, who cares? Much as I love the beer blogging world, I’ve enough humility to know that we’re not movers and shakers in the mass market. The average Bud drinker is not going to switch to Becks because a beer blogger writes about it.

We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s being done because it’s the latest “cool” thing in marketing, even if there’s no evidence that it actually works. The marketing team / agency can explain to the board that their exciting campaign features Web 2.0 technology and get to look creative and cutting-edge.

The other potential achievement from this is to increase search-engine rankings, and perhaps hope to pick up a lazy journalist (of which there are many) who will reproduce stories and press releases. However, beer bloggers can help subvert the effect of the this by writing (and more importantly, linking to) honest, critical articles on genuine beer blogs about Becks and Stella Artois.


Thanks to Appellation beer for the Becks story.

Marketing beer to geeks

The latest issue of WiredWired magazine has several full page advertisements for upmarket beer in its current issue, including Michelob’s range of fancy beers (maerzen, wheat, pale ale and porter).

This, coupled with their recent coverage of the hop shortage, suggests that the marketing men, at least, perceive a link between geekiness and the appreciation of beers other than American light lagers.

The Michelob ad is interesting. It talks about the particular malts used (with pictures) and explains how they’re responsible for the colour and flavour of the beer. In other words, they announce that beer, just like computers, music, TV, film and collecting plastic action figures, is something you can be geeky about.

They’re not advertising to beer geeks — they’re trying to create new ones loyal to their brand.

The Wirral is not Enough

Mike McGuigan with some hops from the North West of England.A little while back, Mike McGuigan, the owner and head brewer of the Wirral’s Betwixt Brewing Company, dropped in to comment on this post. We were intrigued by his business model and we took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

B&B: Firstly, a selfish one — when and where might we be able to get your beers down here in London? Any festivals coming up? Or should we get off our arses and come up to the North West?

We currently work as a ‘cuckoo brewery’ – using spare capacity at a decent local micro — Northern Brewing, Cheshire. The economics of this mean we currently don’t sell much beer in cask at all (instead mainly selling bottled beer at local farmers’ markets).

We’re in the process of setting up our own brewery on the Wirral and, once up and running, we plan to sell a lot more cask beer. However, as a small company, with a limited number of casks and a wish to concentrate largely on local sales, it means that I’m afraid we probably won’t be sending a lot of beer around the country.

We are look into dealing with selected wholesalers (those who will look after our beer, pay us fairly promptly for our and beer and return our empty casks in reasonable time!) so we might indeed occasionally pop up in a pub near you.

That said, if any of you fine folks do make it up here, you will be welcomed with free tastings at any of the farmers’ markets we attend! – see our website for more info. And don’t forget all of the other delights that Merseyside has to offer during this Capital of Culture year.

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