Agencies like working on beer brands. The focus on humour to capture the attention of beer-swilling lads can provide ample opportunity for highly creative output. But in such a competitive market, advertisers need continually to be on top of their respective games in terms of strategy and positioning. Standing out from the crowd is a constant challenge.
Scottish Courage, the parent of brands including John Smith's, Foster's, Kronenbourg 1664 and Beck's, met this challenge head on last year with a bold and successful approach across its portfolio.
While the successful relaunch of John Smith's, featuring the comedian Peter Kay, is undoubtedly a feather in the cap for Scottish Courage (a brilliant campaign, recognised elsewhere in this issue), its other brands have also performed, both creatively and in terms of market share, exceptionally well.
The brand directors John Botia, who runs Foster's and John Smith's, and Andy Neal, who controls Kronenbourg and Beck's, have relaunched, repositioned and revitalised brands as part of a wider plan for the parent company.
Kronenbourg 1664 targeted urban males in London - with TV and 96-sheet posters also gaining national press coverage - while Beck's focused on print executions. Miller Genuine Draft allied itself to music by sponsoring gigs and NME's magazine and website, while Newcastle Brown Ale went for blanket coverage of taxi cabs in the Newcastle region.
M&C Saatchi's work for Foster's, Kronenbourg and Beck's has played a significant part in enabling the brands to enjoy record levels of market share.
The agency managed to keep the Foster's "Honorary Australians'" campaign, which uses the strapline "think Australian, drink Australian", lively.
Botia opted for only one new TV ad last year, but the performance of the brand is testament to the success of adopting a multimedia advertising strategy.
The most recent TV ad, "robot", has kept the concept fresh and has been the most successful of the ten executions developed since the campaign launched in 1998. Running as a 30-second TV and cinema ad, it produced the highest Millward Brown awareness index score (nine) of any treatment, outperforming its direct competitor, Carling, and the UK beer ad average of six. Building on TV, Scottish Courage's media agency, MediaVest, negotiated a tie-up with FHM magazine and its website, which unveiled the Foster's Pit Girls, to build on its role as an official sponsor of the Grand Prix.
A national radio campaign and sponsorship of UK barbecue week saw Foster's launch the "G'day for a barbie" promotion. The push saw a 22 per cent increase in off-trade sales in August.
Overall volume sales are up 7 per cent with a 22 per cent increase in off-trade sales and, according to AC Nielsen, Foster's now has a market share of 24.8 per cent, its highest to date.
Scottish Courage continued its commitment to driving the presence of Beck's, claiming to be the biggest UK alcohol spender using press. Beck's does not advertise on TV, which makes its resulting record market share figures for the print and poster work all the more impressive in terms of the targeting and postioning of the relaunched brand.
Scottish Courage wanted Beck's to be reappraised by 18- to 34-year-olds as a more approachable, stylish beer. A £5 million press campaign, with the strapline "Your bottle of Beck's", ran in men's style titles, supported by 16-sheet and six-sheet poster activity. The campaign is based on how people play with the label on their bottle and what this says about the drinker. One image, "fashion victim", has the B, E and S of Beck's scratched off, leaving just the CK.
Beck's increased its sales through off-licences by 9 per cent, increasing its market share in the premium packaged lager sector to 18.9 per cent. The brand's on-trade weekly sales are up by 4 per cent, helping it achieve its highest on-trade market share in a decade.
Neal decided early last year to take on M&C Saatchi to handle the relaunch of Kronenbourg 1664 after Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R failed to crack the brief. The aim was to make the French heritage of the brand relevant and build a perception of quality to challenge the dominance of Stella Artois in the premium beer sector.
M&C Saatchi took the "best" of France and overlayed it on British culture for a tongue-in-cheek look at how life would be better if Britain were French. Using the strapline "Vive la vie Francaise" the campaign demonstrated how Britain's favourite lager would be, as in France, Kronenbourg 1664.
A range of 60-, 40- and ten-second TV ads as well as 96-sheet posters ran nationally, and six-sheets, with a focus on London, ran on the Underground.
Kronenbourg is second in the on- and off-trade markets, with 14.9 per cent and 9 per cent market volume respectively - its highest ever brand share. The campaign ranked 33 per cent above the industry norm on the Millward Brown awareness index.
Throughout last year, Scottish Courage remained committed to advertising and innovating, and is a worthy winner of the Advertiser of the Year.
However, Marks & Spencer was also a strong contender, let down finally by the demotion of its marketing director role from the main board and the subsequent departure of its marketing director, Alan McWalter.
Recent winners: COI Communications (2001); Heinz (2000); French Connection (1999); McDonald's (1998); Volkswagen (1997); Orange (1996).