On the face of it, the decision to review the pounds 6 million
Holsten Pils account at TBWA GGT Simons Palmer seems as peculiar as the
advertising that has characterised the brand for so long.
For more than two decades it has been served by some of the most
innovative beer advertising to grace Britain’s TV and cinema
From the cleverly produced quick-cut commercials which allowed Griff
Rhys-Jones to trade banter with Marilyn Monroe, to Denis Leary’s
’in-your-face’ comedic style, the work has underpinned the brand’s weird
Now, however, Holsten has severed its relationship with Scottish Courage
in the UK and, with marketing and distribution in its own hands, the
German brewer wants to be sure its advertising is cutting the
Holsten is observing the diplomatic niceties, insisting that the review
will take place on a level playing field where TBWA will be given every
chance to prove itself worthy of keeping the business.
Doubtless the company is sincere in what it says.
But the fact that it has called the review does, at the very least,
suggest an underlying desire for change. TBWA will certainly have to
pull something extra special out of the hat if Holsten is not to seek
what it sees as greener pastures elsewhere.
What may have precipitated the review is the fact that the Holsten Pils
work has a weary look to it. The eccentricity and quirkiness with which
the late actor Donald Pleasance first gave to the brand has become
increasingly hard to sustain at a time when so much advertising purports
to be ’alternative’.
Moreover, the Holsten campaign is in danger of sinking into the
anonymous morass into which so much beer advertising has plunged. Of the
current crop of commercials, the Guinness ’surfer’ spot is the only one
that literally jumps out of the screen at you. Successors to the great
Carling and John Smith’s campaigns are rarely to be seen.
Perhaps the time has come to strip the Holsten brand down to its bare
essentials and start again. The two oily ’suits you’ salesmen fronting
the campaign may be terrific PR for The Fast Show. The question is
whether they now eclipse the brand they promote.