Five major breweries have joined forces in an attempt to reinvigorate Britain’s beer market under the banner of the generic Let There Be Beer Campaign.

The highest-profile element, a TV ad that first aired a couple of weeks ago (above), has divided opinion – falling flat with marketing experts but getting a better response from others.

Here we present what some industry observers made of the advert, and how campaign organisers have responded to criticism.

Robert Metcalfe, MD, Richmond Towers:

Let There Be Beer is a great idea, badly executed. There’s a long tradition of generic beer ads in the UK dating back to the Brewers’ Society’s Beer is Best campaign from the 1930s, executed with wit, style and flair. Everything, in fact, that’s lacking from this offering.

We have been served a second-rate lager ad, but without the brand showing. It could have been screened at any time in the past 10 years. For this reason alone, the idea that it will change anyone’s drinking habits is daft. Refreshment and social lubrication are the two key standbys of lager advertising and are presented here yet again as the only reasons to drink beer. This was supposed to “reinvent the image of the sector”? Come off it.

Let There Be Beer advert

Let There Be Beer TV spot: “a second-rate lager ad”?

And yet there is “potential for rampant growth”, fuelled by “smaller brands, more diverse products and more educated consumers”, according to the campaign’s supporters. All the good things that this ad studiously ignores.

For all those consumers who think beer doesn’t amount to much more than lager for sweaty dads, those are the sort of qualities that could prompt reappraisal. So celebrate the huge range of beers in the UK, not the uniformity of a few brands. Rediscover provenance, ingredients and brewing excellence. Indulge in a bit of consumer education.

But most of all, focus on the fact that beer tastes delicious. There’s a beer out there that you could fall in love with. Not because of 60 seconds of tired advertising. But because it’s a really good product – if only you knew more about it.

Simon Robinson, freelance creative consultant:

There’s an irony here. Because if advertising sold beer, then the brewers wouldn’t need to be pooling their resources as their own advertising would already be selling it. It’s not as if people have forgotten that beer exists, or that there aren’t enough kinds of beer out there for them to try if they wanted.

“If beer advertising doesn’t sell beer brands, then why should anyone believe that it will sell beer as a genre?”

Simon Robinson

The ad features a number of situations that are transformed or improved by the addition of beer: a barbecue, a man meeting his daughter’s boyfriend, a woman in an office. It’s set to the soundtrack of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ from The Sound of Music.

It could easily be an ad for a new beer brand from the Midwest of America. And that’s weird, because if beer advertising doesn’t sell beer brands, then why should anyone believe that it will sell beer as a genre?

The strapline encourages me to ‘join the celebration’ and visit the Facebook page. It tells me that it is ‘my ultimate beer companion’ and offers me information on the ‘beers I know and love’ while promising to ‘introduce me to others I’ve yet to discover’. The Facebook page has 24,400 likes, which sounds impressive, but doesn’t actually tell us anything about how involved people really are. I think a genuinely social campaign might well have worked better. I’d recruit some people to get out and about at the Ashes venues this summer, in fancy dress if possible, spreading the word and getting people involved.

All in all, the campaign’s a bit of a miss for me.

Richard Morgan, senior creative lead, Geometry Global:

Will this ad shift my opinion of beer drinking? Will it open my mind up to the world of beer in all its independent or mass-brewed glory or will I be urged to stay resolute in drinking something else, like a cider?

Let There Be Beer logo

It’s a nice ad. It’s funny, over-dramatic and engaging. The music is good and it doesn’t even need a voice over or dialogue. Great. The story told is that an alcoholic drink can help disarm a frosty reception (meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time), helps me celebrate the end of a hard day at work or when barbecuing endlessly for the family masses.

But I think this is the issue here: pretty much any regular alcoholic drink can do this. Any of these situations could feature any pint, from a stout to a cider to an ale; it doesn’t show me how a beer does this.

I drink cider mainly myself, and this ad should target me and get me to reappraise my beverage choice and choose beer. But it doesn’t. If it showed me how a quirky beer could do it in one scenario and a mainstream in another, I’d be intrigued and interested. The key to this campaign is about halting the decline in beer sales and I don’t think this ad does it. It’s a hard task but that’s the creative and strategic challenge here and one that’s not really, I feel, been met.

Chris Wisson, senior drinks analyst, Mintel:

The new campaign is a good move and could work well. Clearly the large producers are sufficiently worried about the category decline to put their differences and work towards a common goal.

“Clearly the large producers are sufficiently worried about the category decline to put their differences and work towards a common goal”

Chris Wisson

This may in fact end up particularly benefiting the smaller operators who are unlikely to have notable advertising budgets, enabling the category as a whole to gain exposure.

The advert is quite interesting and really plays up the refreshment angle, something that has been one of the key reasons for cider’s growth.

I don’t think people have forgotten about beer per se, rather that other categories such as cider and spirits are stealing share - for example, I think there has been a shift in consumption in the on-trade and people and many drinkers will not just stick to pints on a night out, but move towards drinks such as whisky and rum.

A beer supplier:

The ad is cheap and low on real benefits, and does not reflect the objective of the initiative.

Meanwhile, any attempt at in-store advertising by the campaign will prove expensive and potentially be lost compared to the multiples’ own campaigns and messages.

To sum up, we are preaching to the converted with a soft and subtle message that I fear will go unnoticed.

And the response from the organisers of the Let There Be Beer campaign…

Beer is the UK’s best loved drink - we always knew there would be a great range of opinions on the best way to remind British drinkers what they could be missing!

The ad, which was built on rigorous consumer research to ensure we achieve mass appeal, is the tip of a wide-ranging beer movement that covers the whole social reappraisal question.

“The ad, which was built on rigorous consumer research to ensure we achieve mass appeal, is the tip of a wide-ranging beer movement that covers the whole social reappraisal question”

Let There Be Beer campaign

Of course the movement will grow and evolve as the range of activity we have created unfolds over the coming months - from a large-scale digital programme encompassing Facebook and Twitter, the world’s biggest beer encyclopaedia, and a superb partnership with Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch which will explore the many wonderful ways to match beer with food.

These are all methods to deepen the story of beer and celebrate what’s great about the nation’s favourite drink - 25,000 likes of Facebook in no time can’t be wrong! [Now up to 52,000 - Ed]

Specifically, the TV element of Let There Be Beer is built to remind people in a humorous way of those times when only a beer will do - the commercial rationale is around substitution, not reappraisal.

We are happy to agree that we are, in some ways, “preaching to the converted”. If you look at where beer’s decline stems from, it’s often regular beer drinkers drinking beer less frequently. So, a key objective of the ad is to remind existing drinkers what they love about beer (but now take for granted) and our consumer research strongly validates this strategic approach

We are proud of the way the ad dramatises scenarios when ‘only a beer will do’ - to refresh thirst after slaving over a BBQ, to ease the tension meeting your girlfriend’s dad for the first time, and as a reward after a tough day at work.

We are using these classic beer moments to remind people what they love about beer and set in motion a movement that has the nation talking about beer again.

Beer is at the heart of great conversations; we’re delighted if Let There Be Beer succeeds in getting more people animated about beer and we’re always keen to hear views about how the movement should grow.

What do you think of the Let There Be Beer TV ad, and of the campaign in general? Let us know in the comments below.