Do’s and Don’ts For Beer Ads

The Brewing industry was back on its feet and just seven years from the times of making ice cream and soda pop during Prohibition.  The same critics were out there and fraught with anger over the repeal of their legal fight with “demon alcohol”.  In order to manage the criticism of these voices, certain suggestions were offered to keep the brewing industry above the fray. Remember, Federal prohibition was repealed; many States still had varying forms in place. Through the years, it seems that perception has always been a controlling factor.

The American Brewer Oct. 1940

“Don’ts For Beer” – Brewers Should Remember That Every Piece of Copy Is A Girder In The Industry’s Public Relations Structure.
by Paul Cameron

Don’ts for Beer Advertising
1. Don’t show children in advertisements. “The most important rule of all. In fact, if adult men and women are shown, be sure they are not too young in appearance. One posterboard that featured youngish-looking men and women brought a storm of comment that the appeal was being made to “high school boys and girls.”
2. Don’t show women in the act of drinking. Many of them object.
3. Don’t show scantily dressed women in advertisements or displays. Unsympathetic critics are quick to link beer drinking with immorality.
4. Don’t use religious themes or references. The height of impropriety.
5. Don’t show drinking scenes that might be criticized as “too gay.” The reason again, is that moderation is the key.
6. Don’t allow your name or product to be associated in any way with vulgarity. No one is any judge of the “degree” of vulgarity not likely to offend. Therefore, shun tie-ups with burlesque performances, playing cards, gambling, obscene jokes, vulgar teasers on label backs, questionable point-of-sale displays. What may seem “clever” at the moment is dynamite in the hands of your opponents, and they see it sooner or later.
7. Don’t show fat men with paunches. The public’s conception of beer as fattening and the brewer as a fat man is probably due to the many “fat men” in beer advertising in the past.
8. Don’t advertise alcoholic “strength” as a feature of your product. If you want acceptance as a beverage of moderation, be moderate yourself. And “alcoholic strength” never saved any badly operated tavern from going to the cleaner’s.
9. Don’t attack the products of other brewers, directly or by insinuation. ‘There isn’t any subtle way to say nasty things about competitors in the same business. Don’t say “Our product does not contain chemical ingredients,” or “No green beer in our bottles,” and so on. It boomerangs against the entire industry, and hits you, too.
10. Don’t claim medicinal qualities for your product. That doctors prescribe it for certain patients does not mean that beer has medicinal properties; it means that beer may conceivably provide a method of aiding a patient’s physical or psychological processes.
11. Don’t mention price per drink. ‘That’s a matter between the retailer and the consumer. And if the price is too attractively low, it starts the militant opposition up again.
12. Don’t make claims of distribution that can be assailed as “exaggerated.” Example: “Eight million Americans now enjoy our beer.”
13. Don’t give away premiums that appeal to children. You may offend parents.
14. Don’t give away premiums that compete with other types of business. Be friendly with all other businesses with which you are not in competition.
15. Avoid contests, misleading “taste tests,” and so on. Like premiums, these special devices may be excellent for other products but they frequently cause unfavorable reactions when applied to beer and ale.
16. Avoid “over-spacing” advertisements. This should be a rule particularly in communities where there is organized and, powerful opposition. A big, boastful advertisement may arouse resentment. More modest advertisements, used more often, should do a better job.
17. Keep point-of-sale displays modest. Modest-sized displays work well if properly designed, and are frequently much more acceptable to the retailer.
18. Be careful with sign distribution. At times in the past, when disorder has occurred at a retailing place, the place has frequently been described as a beer tavern. Beer is assailed as sharing the blame. Why? Merely because the place was covered with huge signs advertising a half-dozen different brands of beer. Beer may have had no responsibility. In fact, the retailer might not have sold much beer at all. But how is the public to know about that?

Do’s for Beer Advertising
As usually happens, it is a lot easier to point out the “don’ts” than it is to suggest the “do’s.” To produce good beer advertising . . . advertising that does the job for the individual brewer and is, at the same time, good public relations for his industry . . . requires imagination and skill. No “shot-in-the-arm’’ techniques, but real imagination and real skill. In general, however, the following suggestions may be made:

1. Advertise beer as the natural accompaniment of good food.
2. Advertise beer as the “beverage of moderation.”
3. Advertise beer as a cooling, thirst-quenching beverage in warm weather.
4. Advertise beer on the basis of its appetizing flavor.
5. Give recipes for use of beer with meals and in cooking.
6. Suggest beer for home entertainment; for picnics, parties, etc.
7. It’s safe (so long as the child appeal is absent) to use animals, flowers, birds, etc., in beer advertising.
8. You can talk about the weather, news, sports, etc.
9. Humorous slants are fine if they avoid implication of impropriety in any form.
10. Historical copy may be used the same way.

There are plenty of excellent ways to advertise, within even this small compass. But the one thing always to remember is that although beer is legal just as other businesses are, the manufacturers of beer have had their freedom of advertising limited by social customs and problems which do not confront other industries.

Noblesse oblige.

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