Carlton Draught breaks big ad drought

As social media has increasingly driven the attention economy, traditional television-oriented beer advertising has largely gone the way of the Sunday night blockbuster movie.

With its latest Long Live The Keg creative campaign Carlton Draught is hoping to recreate a little of the beer advertising magic for the Made from Beer series that spawned campaigns such as The Big Ad and Canoe.

While the rise of social media and non-ad-based streaming services has splintered audiences for big-budget advertising, CUB’s Head of Classic Beer Brands, Sarah Wilcox, said the challenge for advertisers was still the same.

“The biggest challenge, really, is making sure that you’ve got something that really grabs attention initially,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what channel you’re on.”

“First and foremost, it needs to stop people in their tracks. It needs to grab their attention. And then you need to make sure that you’re hooking people in to want to watch more or to be intrigued and understand more,” she said.

Wilcox believes entertainment is the key, regardless of channel.

“You want to make sure that you entertain them, so that they are actually interested to stay to the end or find out more or explore.

“It’s the same challenge we had many years ago, it’s just that now we’re having to try a bit harder how you capture that attention in different channels.”

She said Carlton Draught provided a strong platform for advertising, regardless of the platform.

“When you have a really strong and enduring platform like Made from Beer, you can actually bring that platform to life through storytelling in lots of different ways,” she said. “And that storytelling should transcend media channels.”

“Granted, it’s a more fragmented media environment than it ever has been before and will continue to be no doubt. There’ll be more channels that come to life.

“But I think that just gives us a fresh challenge to tell our stories in different ways that are relevant for the channel that you’re using and making sure that you’re leaning into some of the opportunities that new channels also provide as well.”

The Big Ad legacy

The iconic Big Ad for Carlton Draught is a hard act to follow.

Launched in the same year as YouTube and a year before Twitter was created or Facebook was opened to the wider public, it was early to the online space.

The ad launched online in the weeks before it was scheduled to debut on television and quickly generated more than a million views.  Its immediate viral success actually saw the television budget reduced to avoid overexposure and maintain its viral status.

Its success also created a huge problem – and distraction – for the brand trying to follow it up.

In 2017 CUB’s then Director of Customer Connections Chris Maxwell told an advertising summit that there was a Big Ad hangover.

“It left a legacy in the business of ‘we are famous because of our famous advertising’, and the brand grew so we needed to do that again and again and again,” he told the panel.

“We spent years trying to repeat that, but you’ve got to think that an ad and campaign that is that successful and forward-thinking…it’s like catching lightning in a bottle, you can’t just do that on a whim.”

He said that this thinking resulted in the company spending $3 million on production alone for the Skytroop ad.

“The fail in that is that you are forgetting what you’re doing. You’re forgetting that you are there to sell boxes of beer and not win Cannes Lion awards,” AdNews reported.

“The big learning we’ve taken on board is that your role as a marketer is to know your consumer and to produce communications that nudge them in a certain direction.”

The Carlton Draught customer

While CUB’s largest brand, Great Northern, has made significant steps in representing beer through a ‘more inclusive lens‘, and Balter’s current inclusive We Love Good Beer campaign, the visuals for Carlton Draught appear to emphasise its traditional 18 – 39 year old bloke demographic.

However, Sarah Wilcox disagrees with the characterisation that the brand hadn’t evolved to be more contemporary.

“One of the key things around casting characters and people was really looking for real characters with expressions,” she said.

“Perhaps some that diversity is more in the background, it certainly wasn’t a deliberate choice. And we really did want to make sure that we’re representing a broader audience.”

“I think what’s central to the story with Carlton Draught is poking fun at the slight frustration of an empty keg and doing it in a really enjoyable way that really just sort of doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

Long Live the King?

While the launch of the current campaign will coincide with the upcoming Royal Coronation, Wilcox insists that the campaign’s theme was accidental.

“It was certainly not a deliberate plan at all,” she said. “For us it was around how do you really dramatise and bring to life the changing of a keg in a really ridiculous and funny way.”

She said the agency pitched a couple of ideas and this was what was settled on.

“There were a few different concepts on the table,  but this was the one that felt like it was most Carlton Draught.”

“What we really liked about this campaign was the fact that it very clearly anchored us in the pub and in our in our home, which is there.

“And we felt that it was just really joyful and funny, which is true to the brand.”

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