Have you seen the latest Stella Artois advertisement that is currently airing on television and at the cinema? It is shot in a minimalist style in a glamorous French Riviera location with a beautiful actress. The positives stop there. The advert stops short of being a total disaster, but is imminently forgettable (the cardinal sin of marketing), and has several glaring flaws.
The shooting location antagonises me from the off, as Stella Artois originates in the Flanders region of Belgium, which has historic ties to the Netherlands, not France. Of course you can shoot an advertisement in any country you choose, but with a name like “Stella Artois”, shooting in the South of France does seem to mislead as to the beer’s origins. Beer/cider adverts, if shot overseas, are typically shot where the beer originates, as in the recent Eric Cantona Kronenbourg campaign in Alsace, France, or Magners in Clonmel, Ireland. Perhaps the land of Tintin and Poirot lacks the glamour and aspirational tones of the Riviera?
Another contention: in my view, beer advertisements have to tread a fairly thin line between demonstrating a healthy desire for their product, whilst avoiding the obsessiveness that smacks of dependency on the part of their protagonist. The plot doesn’t even seem to make sense: why does the protagonist have to wear a fresh disguise each time she wants a beer? Rather than appear wily, cheeky or endearing, the ruse reeks of a sad alcoholic shamefully attempting to hide her condition from the rest of the world. She is finally caught out by the dab of beer foam on the tip of her nose. These potentially negative associations are not something a company should want to associate their marketing with.
A beautiful female protagonist who “lusts” after a beer (an inversion of the stereotypical beer drinker) has become a tired “ironic” trope in recent years, and is as old as at least the Boddingtons “Cream of Manchester” campaign of the mid-1990s.
This latest offering from Stella Artois is neither particularly original, or funny or entertaining or admirable. It is simply bland and forgettable. It is a little sad, especially when you consider the enduring quality of older Stella adverts such as “Jacques” from 1991:
Jacques was witty, understated and original. French narration was pretty innovative for advertising in 1991, let alone for the beer category, a traditionally conservative genre. The Verdi soundtrack, the humour and the classy direction were pure high class. And it had a clear message: “Reassuringly Expensive” that differentiated the product from its rivals.
Stella Artois ought to be upping its game. This is 2014, not 1991: there are other premium lagers to choose from, such as Peroni Nastro Azurro, Tiger and Staropramen. Peroni is actually imported from its country of origin, unlike Stella, which is produced in a large brewery in Magor, South Wales and Samlesbury, near Preston, for the UK market. There is nothing from with that of course, but a customer has far more reason to pay a premium for an imported lager than a locally-brewed one.