To understand where all the vibrancy has gone from the dismal Adnams’ Let’s Talk Beer advertising campaign for 2011, we must first ask, why was it’s predecessor, the brilliant 2003 Beer from the Coast campaign, so successful?
Beer writer of the year 2009, Pete Brown, explained his thoughts on the success of the 2003 campaign: “At the time it launched, ‘provenance’ was a big buzz word in beer advertising. We drink Fosters lager because it’s Australian, Stella because it’s, um, ‘European’, Corona because it’s from somewhere sunny, and so on. Every big ad agency I worked with believed you couldn’t ‘do’ English provenance effectively, because ours was a country that no one aspired to, that no one yearned for or wanted to be closer to. Adnams proved that if you take it down to a regional level, that’s not true. This campaign captured a neverland, a timeless ideal of the English coast that spoke to the hearts of people who grew up here.”
As one of the people who grew up there, I cannot agree more. I have the postcard above (featuring the locally known avocet) on my wall as art. It was the series of beer mats produced for this campaign (a selection of which from my personal collection can be seen above) which prompted me to begin collecting breweriana. Artwork by illustrator Chris Wormell , with the simple lines of his lino cuts, cleverly hearkens to an inner desire in all of us for a more simple life by the sea.
The Beer From the Coast campaign coincided neatly with a huge investment from Adnams (to the tune of £ 5,700,000) in their eco-friendly distribution centre just outside Southwold (see image above and note the plants on the roof). A recipient of the David Alsop Sustainability, the distribution centre has been a huge success, and a big part of the ethos of the company. Sustainability is obviously of vast importance to them, a point they hammered home with the release of their carbon neutral beer, East Green. The press ad for East Green can be seen below, it won the ANNA GrandPrix award and an interesting little detail- the illustrator’s fee was re-negotiated from £5,000 to £2,500.
Adnams has seen rapid proliferation in the years since Beer from the Coast was launched, expanding into boutique hotels, spirits and liqueurs (quite excited about sampling their new limoncello) and kitchenware, holding a current total of 10 stores. With a flurry of recent awards including Good Beer Guide‘s Brewery of the Year 2011, San Francisco World Spirits Competition Gold Award for Adnams Longshore Vodka, and Best Small Hotel by the Tourism in Suffolk Awards for the Crown Hotel in Southwold, its easy to see that Adnams have many new projects to promote and be proud of.
As a result of all this new activity Adnams saw fit to commission a new campaign, Let’s Talk Beer, which launched in February of this year. According to Adnams PR Representative Emma Hibbert, the new campaign, “gives the brand a voice and tells Adnams’ stories through sketched posters and doodle-inspired beer mats.” When I first heard that Adnams would be putting out a new marketing campaign I was initially concerned, after all this was my local brewery, with a beloved and inspiring look which had inspired me to collect beermats- could they possibly continue to delight? As though to allay my fears they announced that (intelligently) they would again be partnering with Dave Dye at DHM, the Soho based communications agency which had engineered the 2003 campaign that we know and love so much.
It was therefore with great anticipation that I went online to see the initial images that would be trumpeting the new campaign:
Hmmm… What to say about it? Whilst its clear that it was time to update the marketing materials to highlight the company’s increasingly environmentally conscious image and progressive new interests, was is also necessary to make it so drab, so dismal and so heartrendingly cheap-looking? Don’t get me wrong, I love the pithy, conversational style- it encapsulates the Suffolk way of life. I understand the direction that DHM was trying to take the company, as explained in their Adnams Case Study, ” Britain feels like a cynical, jaded place… Adnams has a philosophy that is optimistic and can-do… Drink Positive, Think Positive, live Positive.”
So what is my problem? Its the overall presentation. The images fail in a major way to please the eye. The font is bland and clashes with the gentle Adnams font. And DHM have completely abandoned the idyllic and distinctive Suffolk scenes which were so integral to the feeling of the brand. In fact, DHM went so far as to identify those, ‘seaside postcard’ scenes as a, “major drawback,” that they needed to address in the Let’s Talk Beer version. They felt that the images, ” implied unchanging tradition when Adnams had blossomed into a highly progressive, energetic and experimental company.” This is where I feel that DHM has failed Adnams in an almost unforgivable manner.
There is a reason why Southwold is the 41st most expensive town to live in Britain, closely followed by nearby Aldeburgh at 44th. The Telegraph describes Southwold thus: “ So jaunty with its brightly-coloured beach huts, working lighthouse, pier, busy little harbour and the foot ferry across the River Blyth to Walberswick, where the crabbing championships in August are a small boy’s dream. Walkers delight in the outstandingly beautiful coast and heaths, and drinkers in the locally-brewed Adnams beer. City-dwellers of the Thatcher era arrived in droves with money to spend, so dusty grocers became delicatessens, and genteel but decrepit houses are now among the most expensive addresses in the east.” Did you notice how much reference was made to the scenic local area? People will pay premium prices to be near the coast, to have a piece of it. Why cut out one of the greatest selling points of the beer, the hotels, the kitchenware and label it unprogressive?
With the recent downturn in the economy many families have been drawn to ‘staycations’ within the British Isles. Surely it would make sense to incorporate at least some reference to the geographical lure of Southwold? Why not use local artists to illustrate the campaigns, have local people talking about the beer, the culture, the new developments at Adnams? The coast and countryside is not ‘quaint’ and unprogressive, often it is the birthplace of innovation and ideas as Adnams has demonstrated in recent years. Pete Brown, mentioned at the outset, felt similarly, identifying Adnams’ location as their, “unique advantage.” He praised the artwork for, “branding the coast and claiming it for Adnams.” Indeed it has served them well, so why discard it now?
The latest posters are just as disappointing as the beermats:
Eco does not have to equal earth tones and mediocrity. There is no aesthetic pleasure that comes from looking at this series, and its certainly not something I will be scouring the local pubs to collect as I did with the Beer from the Coast series.
Do you disagree? Let me know below:
There are no recent tweets.