One of the few truly clever advertisements on Australian television promoted Victoria Bitter, a best-selling Australian beer. Since I rarely watch commercial television, and I don’t drink beer, it is very interesting that the campaign for a beer company would attract my attention. You can see the full advertisement in YouTube.
In 2009 when this ad was created, Australia drank more beer per capita than any country on earth except for Czech Republic, Germany and Ireland. Yet this advertising company wanted an ad that had that familiar VB feel – down to earth and uniquely Australian. And they also wanted to pitch the ad at modern drinker. Did they succeed?
What banner do you march under? (top image)
The Courier newspaper, 2009
The ad’s narrator was sublime. He discussed each group of men as the group passed through the historic gold town of Ballarat in a long parade, something like the Olympic Games. Two people proudly carried a banner in front of each group, describing what the men in that group had in common: “Blokes punching above their weight” (ordinary looking men on the arms of gorgeous looking women); “Men who’ve had their arm in a cow”; “Guys who peaked in high school" (a long time ago); “Blokes who chucked a sickie” (they got a bogus medical certificate to get off work); “Men who claim to have punched a shark”; "The salad dodgers" and the best of all, “Men who won’t eat quiche” and “People who dream of chucking it in”. Irony is certainly the most favoured form of humour in Australia.
There was a holiday atmosphere in this rural city. 2,000 locals enjoyed their 15 seconds of fame as they marched down the main street, smiling at flag-waving well wishers on both sides of the road and up on second storey verandas. It was typical larrikin stuff; the men apparently did not mind being made to look just a tiny bit ridiculous for a beer ad. Either that ... or Australian men never take themselves too seriously. So I loved the narrator's observation that "there were touching moments of reflection" in the groups of men walking under the banners that they had selected. Perhaps the tears came because of the internationally famous cricketers (Michael Clarke, Peter Siddle, Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson etc) who appeared in the celebration-themed commercial.
The parade, May 2009
The Courier newspaper
It was a mainstream beer that was talking to mainstream Australian blokes, so the ad had to be quintessentially Australian. Hoppsy specifically identified the cricketers, footballers, streakers, Victorian pub architecture, brass bands. And I would add the sloppy men’s clothing. That it was also accurate was attested by one woman who wrote: "Sadly my hubby fits into a few too many of those categories". If my own beloved was in Ballarat during the filming, I Helen would have entered him behind the “Men who should have read the instructions” banner.
Ballarat Beer Festival, Jan 2019
The Courier newspaper
The Ballarat Beer Festival at the City Oval has attracted 4,000+ visitors each year since it started in 2012 . In January 2019 over 40 breweries, cider producers and wineries set up shop at North Gardens for the annual festivities. Soul, funk and blues performers, including Butterfunked and Christina Croft, got the braver beer drinkers dancing, while others relaxed in the shade. While pilsners and pale ales were the picks of this hot summer day, an increasing number of festival stalls were eschewing the frothy stuff for something more refreshing.