Sex and suds back together

Canadian breweries return to 'era of the bimbo'

July 19, 2004 - While U.S. brewers recently toned down sexiness in their beer commercials, sex and suds are back together in Canada. "It's the era of the bimbo all of a sudden," said Nancy Vonk, chief creative officer at Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto.


Just two years ago, Canada's best know beer ads contained no sexual content. In Feburary of 2002, Molson Inc.'s president and chief executive officer Dan O'Neill even dismissed the traditional approach to marketing beer altogether. "Suds and sex is bull," he told The Globe and Mail.

Not these days. Arthur Fleischmann, president and chief executive officer of Toronto ad shop John St., said that's a sign of desperation from the mainstream brewers, whose flagship brands are losing market share.

Labatt Brewing Co. Blue features an ad in which two bar babes share a lustful kiss as a creative way to exchange lip gloss. In downtown Toronto, Amsterdam Brewing Co. is running transit posters featuring images of prostitutes.

And an ad for A Marca Bavaria, Molson's Brazilian import, depicts a woman emerging from the ocean and undoing her thong bikini.

"We had done a great job of bringing more substance and creativity and intelligence to beer advertising. And then we seem to have lost it in the last year and a half," Arthur Fleischmann said.

It's not always the sexuality that makes ads controversial.

Sleeman Breweries Ltd. is running an ad in Quebec for its Silver Creek Lager, featuring a number of quick black and white images. Chairman John Sleeman thought one of the images - in which a couple is making out in front of a row of urinals - was pushing the boundaries. He decided it would be acceptable in Quebec where people are more European in their attitudes toward sexuality.

Canadian Broadcast required that the ad run only after 9 p.m. - not because of the sexuality, but because of another image of a priest wearing a Sleeman label in place of his religious collar. "To our surprise they didn't seem to object to a couple frolicking in the men's room, but they did object to a picture of a priest with a collar on," Sleeman said.

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