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Newcastle Brown Ale Gets Even More Honest


IDEA: Most brands are liars—fabulists, fabricators, tellers of half-truths and falsehoods, terrified of disclosing their real agenda (to take your money). In beer ads, the lies are legendary. The beer will get you the girl, make you cool, give you the best night of your life. All that, says Newcastle Brown Ale, is bullshit—or in the British brand's native slang, bollocks (conveniently, a more broadcast-friendly term). For its second year, Droga5 has fine-tuned its "No Bollocks" campaign for the brewer by taking the kind of pithy, comically frank one-liners it's honed on Facebook over the past year and building snappy, visually simple 15-second TV ads around them. There are five spots so far, with more on the way, all poking holes at deceptive beer advertising, and portraying Newcastle not as the more upstanding marketer but at least the more honest one. The idea came from the no-nonsense attitude of working-class Newcastle itself, but it's also, of course, a sly challenger-brand positioning. "We're a very good beer. We're also a beer with a personality," said brand director Charles van Es. "But I'm not going to lie to you. It's about having more people talk about us and buy a lot of Newcastle."

COPYWRITING: The ads pair wry voiceovers with still photos. "In 1927, Colonel James Porter handcrafted Newcastle Brown Ale. But handcrafting was a nightmare. So now we handcraft the same delicious beer with huge, giant machines," says the voice in one, as old shots of brewers stirring a batch give way to those of a modern factory floor. In another, the voice says: "Great times guaranteed. Unless you're having a crap time. Then we can't guarantee much at all"—as happy bar scenes take a turn for the worse. "Sometimes you do have a fight with your girlfriend, or you're sitting alone at the bar, peeling a logo off a bottle," said Droga5 copywriter Ant White. "To have the confidence to show that was really refreshing." "We use ourselves as an example of what's wrong with marketing," added group strategy director Tom Naughton. "It would be naive of us to say, 'Everyone else is doing it wrong, and we're perfect.' But we're going to tell you how we're doing it."

ART DIRECTION: Droga5 hired nine photographers, gave them a general sense of what to shoot, and let them loose. The agency now has a bank of 25,000 photos to use for future ads and Facebook posts. "It's still photography, not moving image—very basic, all shot in a realistic way," said van Es. "We don't put supermodels in our ads. We show the people who drink the beer. We visually represent what we stand for." There is no director—the creatives work with an editor to piece the spots together.

TALENT: The voiceover is Ralph Ineson, who played Finchy on the British version of The Office. "He was the guy who told it like it is to David Brent," White said. "He got it instantly. He's like the guy who'll sit next to you at the bar and say these one-liners to you. That's what we were looking for."

SOUND: The same goofy, polka-style song plays in all the spots: "The Gonk," by Herbert Chappell, best known for having been used (with zombie moans added) in Dawn of the Dead. "We were using it as placeholder, but we couldn't beat it," said White. "It's this repetitive, almost confident sound. It has no ending, either, which is quite funny. It's like, 'Here we go, we're telling a one-liner … and we're out.' "

MEDIA: TV and online. In-bar materials include The Best Coaster in the World (a ludicrous beer coaster that's socially networked) and a tap-handle QR code that promises to find the nearest Newcastle. "There it is," your phone says after scanning it, as an arrow points to the tap.



Client: Heineken USA, Newcastle Brown Ale
VP of Marketing, Dos Equis, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale and
Strongbow Cider: Matt Kahn
Brand Director, Newcastle Brown Ale: Charles van Es
Agency: Droga5, New York
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Executive Creative Directors: Ted Royer, Nik Studzinski
Copywriter: Ant White
Art Director: Karen Land
Photographer: Paul Mcgeiver
Head of Integrated Production: Sally-Ann Dale
Agency Producer: Sarah Frances Hartley
Art Producer: Maggy Lynch-Hartley
Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer
Group Strategy Director: Tom Naughton
Strategist: Matthew Gardner
Group Account Director: Nick Phelps
Account Director: Lauren Solomon
Production Company: Webber Represents, Ny
Photographers: Jenny Heuston, Magdalena Wosinska, Mark Peckmezian, Scott Pommier, Will Mebane, Peden & Munk, Jane Mcleishkelsey, Chris Searl. Getty Images, Age Foto Stock, Ian Dobson Archive
Senior Agent: Tom Claxton
Editorial: Cut & Run
Editor: Gary Knight
Assistant Editor: Stacy Peterson
Post Production: The Mill
Colorist: Fergus Mccall
Senior Smoke Artist: Jeff Robins
Music: "The Gonk" by Herbert Chappel
Sound: Sonic Union
Mixer: David Papa

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