Beer – it’s lovely! Imagine seeing a sign with that slogan and nothing more. Well, you don’t need to imagine it, I’ve got the image right there. I was doing research for a TV pilot, trawling through images of 1970s Leyton, when I stumbled across this and had to wonder what it was about. It captures your attention and encourages you to action, but where did it come from? There is no brand involved, after all. I don’t imagine this slogan is news to most people, with a few Beer – it’s Lovely! ads doing the internet rounds already, but there wasn’t much info as to where these ads had come from. So I did some digging, and wrote a brief history of this simple but effective advertising campaign:
Beer, it’s the best!
After the First World War, resources for beer in the UK were scarce and the industry was instructed to reduce output. Duty and prices rose. Over the course of the next decade and a half the beer industry took a major hit, with weak beer at high prices causing general unease. (A poignant time to hark back to, as the government is currently engaged in similar pricing shenanigans.) It was a problem so profound that anger at a lack of beer was named a principle cause of industrial unrest. The professional body for the beer industry, the Brewer’s Society, lobbied the government for lower duties and finally got their wish in 1933. On the condition that the lower prices were passed onto the consumer and that output was increased to help the farming industry.
The result was that the Brewer’s Society recognised a need for a general campaign to increase awareness of beer. They wrote collective ads to make beer appeal to the public in general, with images of beer being enjoyed by families and at sports events. Here’s a fine example on Flickr with a little hearty encouragement in the copy for a hiker to drink a beer or two. These ads were signed off with a simple slogan: ‘Beer is best.’ Something that the temperance movement countered with their own slogan ‘Beer is best – left alone.’ Good one guys.
From this movement, the Brewer’s Society came up with the even more effective, indisputable tagline ‘Beer – it’s lovely!’ As chance would have it, the advertising campaign started the same week that prohibition in the US ended, and beer sales started to rise. The marketing campaign was seen as a success, and kept running until 1970.
Beer – it’s lovely!
A pint for the painters. It doesn’t get much simpler than this, a rather colloquial yarn appealing to the everyday working man. It’s not snappy and doesn’t force this idea down your throat, it’s just a casual bit of prose to highlight the simple pleasure of a midday beer. Many might not agree with the morality of it, but, much like with the success of the Hamlet campaign, it’s hard to argue with its appeal.
The various tales associated with these adverts included explaining that beer was good for your health, a great way to restore energy after doing sports and crucial for relaxing:
These examples might be sniffed at as poor copywriting these days, they’re not punchy or especially graceful. But what they have is an air of authenticity. They don’t feel like a sale, they feel like someone quite innocently encouraging you to enjoy one of life’s simple pleasures. As though it’s for your own good. Of course, there’s nothing especially innocent about encouraging anyone to drink more alcohol, but the way the copy is written certainly feels honest.
The Beer – it’s Lovely! campaign was not the only one of its kind. Other industries were engaged in this idea of general advertising for increased consumption and recovery, one of the finest of which has to be Eat More Fish. As a slogan, it couldn’t be simpler, and it takes all its authority from that one word ‘more’. It says you already eat fish, so it’s not an order to do something you don’t want to. It’s just an idea that you should be doing more of something you enjoy. But that’s another story, covered well here.