Got Beer?

Industry leaders consider united campaign to fix beer's broken image

Nov 7, 2005 - Anheuser-Busch is trying to drum up support in the beer industry for the equivalent of the dairy industry "Got Milk?" advertising campaign, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Robert C. Lachky, Anheuser's executive vice president of global industry development, working through the Beer Institute, has been assigned to get other brewers in line. He said the response so far has been "unbelievably favorable."

The Journal reported that brewers would donate advertising space in which one of the industry spots could run. Conceivably, a commercial could run during one of Anheuser's many Super Bowl slots, although no final decisions have been made.

The proposed campaign comes as overall beer sales lag nationally - though craft beer sales continue to surge. Reports show three important consumer groups turning away from beer in favor of wine and mixed drinks.

Baby boomers increasingly are drinking wine, young women now often find it more fashionable to drink a low-carb cocktail than a brew, and older members of the echo-boom, the children of baby boomers born from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, also seem drawn to cocktails, in large part because of the more-sophisticated image the spirits industry has created for its products.

"People will tell you that beer is not sophisticated enough, or stylish enough, to compete with wine and spirits," said Tom Long, chief marketing officer for Miller Brewing. "Why do they think that? Well, I believe it's because we told them to."

Beer makers have long targeted 21- to 27-year-old men. A "girls and humor" ad formula made some sense, Mr. Long said, considering that young men continue to drink the vast majority of beer in the U.S. But girls and humor became bimbos and slapstick "and ultimately our message often became a parody of itself," Long said.

United action by brewers isn't totally new. Following World War II, the Brewers Foundation commissioned popular magazine artists to produce a series of 115 paintings using the theme "Home life in America" and showing folks socializing at home with beers at hand.

These portraits appeared as advertising in all the popular publications, noting "perhaps no beverages are more 'at home' on more occasions" than American beer. Each included the tagline, "Beer belongs ... enjoy it."

The Journal reported Lachky has circulated several ideas for TV ads among beer executives, retailers and other insiders. One, dubbed "Here's to Beer," shows people around the world drinking beer and toasting in different languages. "It's about connecting and the universality of beer," Lachky said. It is one of three or four concepts the industry is considering.

A print campaign making the rounds would feature celebrities who answer the question, "Who would you like to have a beer with?" In the version that Lachky has shown several executives, Paul Newman wants to have a beer with Teddy Roosevelt. Oprah Winfrey chooses Lucille Ball.