Carlsberg captures the anticipation of a long-awaited pint in a campaign celebrating the reopening of pubs after lockdown.
As the government eases lockdown restrictions, pubs in England are allowed to reopen from 4 July after three months of closure. "Welcome back to the pub", created by Fold7, launches today (Friday) to mark this turning point.
An upbeat TV ad spoofs an escape movie and follows three friends as they break out from the mundanity of lockdown, until they finally meet in a beer garden and enjoy freshly poured pints of Carlsberg Danish Pilsner.
The campaign includes a two-day roadblock of TV spots across channels such as ITV and Channel 4, along with social media, outdoor and national press ads. Carlsberg has also formed a media partnership with LadBible to celebrate local pubs and promote its Love My Local platform to beer drinkers and publicans.
Love My Local, a free-to-use online tool, launched in April and allowed pubs, restaurants and cafés to sell food and drink to consumers via takeaway and delivery. Since then, the brewer has further developed the website and app to help pubs trade safely, with features that enable them to offer online food and drinks menus, take online payments and accept table bookings.
The work was created by Verity Fine Hosken and directed by Andy Lambert through 76 Ltd. Initiative is the media agency.
This is a pivotal moment for the brand, because like countless other businesses, Carlsberg’s plans for 2020 were upended by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Carlsberg had been about to launch an ad in late March that continued its "Probably not" campaign promoting the brand’s quality and Danish heritage. That work, unveiled in 2019, had introduced the rebranding of its standard lager to Carlsberg Danish Pilsner and starred Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen as a "philosopher" character.
But as the outbreak spread and businesses including pubs, bars, restaurants and shops shut, Carlsberg scrapped the next iteration of that campaign and went back to the drawing board. The brand's UK director of marketing, Emma Sherwood-Smith, had only been in her job for about five weeks when the crisis took hold.
"Everything just went on pause," she said. "For us, the pubs shutting affected the shape of our business."
However, Carlsberg kept its ad featuring Mikkelsen running on TV during lockdown. That decision paid off and the brand saw its highest levels of awareness in more than two years, Sherwood-Smith said.
Capturing the nation’s mood
In the meantime, Carlsberg sought a way to capture the mood of the nation in a new environment. During lockdown, as it looked forward to pubs reopening, messaging and plans for the campaign changed weekly and even daily as the situation evolved, according to Ryan Newey, founder and chief creative officer at Fold7.
"It started with reminiscing about the pub, but after a couple weeks that felt irrelevant, too, because people were already looking for an out date," he said. "The brief became about looking forward and how we celebrate and own this cultural moment. The idea was about how we support pubs and celebrate this great British institution. Carlsberg as a big brewer has a responsibility to look after these businesses that have been loyal customers for a long time."
Then, on 23 June, the government made the announcement that many had been waiting for: pubs and restaurants would be allowed to reopen from 4 July. Carlsberg immediately launched a countdown on social media – about one minute before the BBC reported the news, Newey said.
Each day, humorous social posts have promoted social distancing and commented on familiar aspects of quarantine, such as lockdown haircuts. "It’s about how we create some positivity and anticipation," Sherwood-Smith said.
Not a stereotypical beer ad
The campaign was shot, edited and produced in less than two weeks. Despite the production restrictions in lockdown, Sherwood-Smith said she was keen for the film to have a "modern, progressive feel". Unlike numerous other beer ads, the spot’s lead character is a woman who meets her two male friends at the pub.
"My brief was that this cannot be a stereotypical lager ad. I said to the director: ‘I do not want three guys at the bar,'" she said. "While the ad talks in the moment, we’ve continued with our modernising of the brand through casting."
For Carlsberg and many others, the rest of the year is still uncertain. But Sherwood-Smith said the brand will continue to champion community, the beer and pub industries, and the cherished British institution of the local.
"What we’ve seen during this crisis is the beer industry and pub industry coming together in a way that has never been seen before. That sense of community and coming together is a real positive as we come through this crisis," she said.
As for whether Mikkelsen would return to Carlsberg’s advertising, Sherwood-Smith said she will soon be discussing plans for 2021 with her global marketing colleagues. "Watch this space," she added.