Newcastle Brown Ale Dislikes Talking Bollocks

brett steen newcastleThis is how to make a beer commercial.

Combine gorgeous women, average-looking men, laughter, extreme close-ups of flowing beer, long shots of snow-capped mountains (optional). Shake it up and toss it onto an NFL game, preferably sometime during the first quarter when people are still watching.

This is also the antithesis of how Heineken-owned Newcastle Brown Ale, which late last year eschewed television advertising, approaches its video advertising.

During the last Super Bowl, for instance, it released online a two-minute-plus video ad starring actress Anna Kendrick ("I don’t think of myself as beer commercial babe hot…I mean, I'm hot. But approachable hot.”) that served as a send-up to beer commercial clichés.

And last week, Newcastle released two similarly irreverent videos starring actor Wil Wheaton.

Because of each video’s length, Newcastle tends to shy away from pre-roll.

We don’t want the construct of time to hold us hostage from a creative situation,” said Brett Steen, Newcastle’s brand manager. “We want the creative to breathe and get our message out and put out anti-marketing in a fun way, in a way that’s shareable. In a way that is entertainment and not just advertising.”

Newcastle, he said, targets males 21-29. It wants to be “the first really good beer for men when they’re coming of age and starting to have more disposable income.”

In other words, a significant step up from whatever they were swilling discreetly in their dorm rooms.

Steen spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: How do you place your long-form video ads to ensure viewers watch them all the way through?

BRETT STEEN: Our preference is not to use pre-roll. We work with our media department and our media agency to try to find the right media partners that let us use longer form videos.

Newcastle’s advertorial tone is pretty cheeky. How’d you come to that strategy?

When we looked at the positioning of the brand, we looked at Newcastle in the northeast of England. The people there are humorous but very transparent and very much about telling it straight. They use the term “bollocks” quite a bit, and they have an anti-bollocks persona to them.

That’s the birthplace of the beer and the crux of the brand. That transparency allows us to poke fun at people who are veiling something to convince people to purchase their product.

How does this affect your digital strategy?

We looked at what was working hardest for us. We had TV and a lot of different areas, but with our budget, we couldn’t break through in a lot of those mediums. What had the biggest impact on our brand health, and where we got the most positive response, was the online work we did through Facebook and the digital media we were using. We decided to lean into that as our primary source.

Also, when you do it right and have entertaining content, you get earned views and make the most of your market spend by leveraging PR and giving people the opportunities to share content as opposed to having it just be paid.

Why didn’t you get enough return from television?

It was difficult for us to get share of voice. Our budget didn’t allow us to reach enough people with the frequency to drive the campaign home. When we looked at national spend on television, we have some regions that sell more beer than others. Some areas we’d be on air where we didn’t have a lot of distribution or volume, so our spend was out of whack. With digital, we can be more focused and spend those dollars more efficiently. It also lets us leverage those views and get more bang for our buck and reach more people and the right people.

Is TV still on the agenda or are you all digital?

We’ve gone all digital. We started going completely digital December 2013. In 2014, all our content was pushed through digital. We tied it to our in-store below-line activity through shopper-targeted controls as well.

Who do you use for that?

We use Datalogix and we’re looking at new vendors. We use all of our core agencies: We use Droga5 for our creative, and they also help us with strategy. We work with MediaMath through our media agency to determine the right way to flight and the right media partners to go with and reach the right people. We do data mining working with partners like Datalogix. Our media team really spearheads those efforts, and is in charge of putting us in contact with the right partners to ensure we’re using the right metrics.

Which social venue and which publications generate the best response?

It depends on the campaign. In some cases, some of our best success has been with digital partners that we didn’t necessarily have a media buy with. If our content is organically picked up by BuzzFeed or Mashable or any of these properties, often we find that drives as many if not more views that a digital partnership does.

The media team sets up our digital partnerships and sets the KPIs. We have a very close relationship with Facebook. They’ve been a great partner. We feel really good about how their native video player has been performing.

Are you working with its ad server Atlas?

We are talking with Facebook about Atlas. It’s in the plans for 2015, but we don’t have an entry with them right now.

With long-form video, is the focus organic views?

Absolutely. We want to put out things that entertain people, that will convince them to stay, watch the whole thing and share it. Celebrities are talented people. They do the content very well and it’s very funny. In many cases we’re doing it with celebrities who lean into it because it’s along the lines of their own humor and how they view their own brand. We select celebrities we know will do the content justice. We also use their social networks and their followers. And it’s a little easier to get press pick up when you have a recognizable name attached to the work.

Why don’t you do pre-roll?

It’s not that we don’t do any pre-roll but we try to avoid it for two reasons: There’s not much available in pre-roll that’s not 15-30 seconds, and a lot of our content is longer than that.

Also, with pre-roll you’re showing someone something when they want to get to the next thing. We want to reach people through sites writing commentary about our spots, and when people are open to be entertained.

We’re not competing with other ads on pre-roll. We’re competing with YouTube videos people want to watch to be entertained.

The Super Bowl spot you shot was interesting because you were able to tie your brand to the event without actually sponsoring that event.

It was the first time we tried to do that. We basically wanted to hijack the conversation around the Super Bowl without the rights, ability or money to run a spot during the Super Bowl. It was a really good creative solution and we got some really good content. The pick-up and the media day we did helped us ramp that up at a good time, allowing us to be a brand relevant during that time period.

Will you continue that strategy going forward?

Our strategy is to do a couple of things really big. And in between that, we have always-on. We’ll always be doing different things on a more local and targeted level. We’ll always look to do very big things that let us punch above our weight in terms of the size of our brand.

What’s the nature of your always-on campaigns?

We use it to bridge gap and keep conversations going, especially with our Facebook fans and Twitter followers. We used to do several posts a week but based on how media spend works, we had three or four posts that performed really well and a lot of stuff didn’t reach a lot of people or create much conversation.

We’re more focused on doing fewer, bigger, better. We’re doing posts that are relevant to what’s going on in real time. If there’s an opportunity to give our opinion on something, we’ll take that. Also we have planned opportunities. We’ll always have a post around the World Series or a post that ties into relevant things. So in the fall, we post about our pumpkin beers. We’re always trying to lean into things that are in the news and to tie it back to our beer.

What were some of the learnings from your Super Bowl ad that you can apply later?

We picked the Super Bowl not because it’s a big sporting event, but because it’s a huge cultural event and because there’s so much marketing excess around it. There’s so much marketing bollocks to point out. It’s unique in that way and I don’t think there’s another sporting event in the world that’s as fraught with over-the-top marketing.

Do you envision these institutions cracking down on advertisers who aren’t formal sponsors, like the NFL tried to do with Beats?

I don’t think we did anything that would raise red flags with the NFL or that would put us in a position where anybody could take action against us. The Super Bowl is an interesting occasion to us because it’s a huge party occasion and obviously a good occasion for beer. And Newcastle is very successful and it’s one our strongest selling weeks of the year. It makes sense from a sales perspective, when you layer on the fact that it’s fraught with marketing bollocks, it gives us a great target to poke our campaign at.

 

Add a comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>