- The much-maligned "Tickle it, you wrigglers" campaign for Foster's lager is being dumped in favour of new advertising which transfers idiosyncratic Australian humour to an international stage.
A pair of TV commercials and a cinema film breaking on 2 May mark the end of an 18 month association with the Scottish Courage brand by Australia's cult comedians, Roy and HG, who were criticised for being incomprehensible and a consumer turn-off.
Instead, the new work through M&C Saatchi -- under the theme of "He who drinks Australian, thinks Australian"-- focuses on the universal appeal of Australian humour.
All the commercials have been shot with foreign actors and carry English subtitles. They are part of an attempt to bring some advertising consistency to the brand, which has been lacking since Paul Hogan fronted its campaign in the 80s, and to catapult Foster's above Carling as leader of the UK standard lager market by the millenium.
The campaign will account for £10 million out of a total of £25 million earmarked to support the brand during the year, which includes an increased investment in Grand Prix racing sponsorship.
In one film, a Mexican priest thinks that a peasant who has come to confess a fling with a couple of nymphomaniac twins wants absolution -- when he really just wants to boast. In another, a Foster's drinker has to make a hasty exit to avoid an embarrassing confrontation with a Mafia don. In the third, a girl has a crushing surprise when she thinks a dashing Frenchman is offering to carry her shopping.
James Lowther, the M&C Saatchi joint creative director, and Sue Higgs wrote the commercials, which were art directed by Steve Paskin. They were directed by Daniel Kleinman for Limelight. Media buying is through MediaVest.
Nick Hurrell, the agency's joint chief executive, said: "This is a campaign with real backbone and we see it running for a long time."
Agency and client had been debating since last summer whether or not to persevere with the "Tickle it" campaign which, Hurrell insisted, had taken brand awareness to an all-time high. He claimed the situation had been complicated by Roy and HG's TV contractual obligations in Australia, which meant that any new commercials could not have been shot in the UK.
Lowther said: "The new campaign is better because it relies on an idea rather than celebrities."