Dan Fox
The views expressed in db Reader do not represent the views of the drinks business.

Why would Stella Artois disrespect its own history?

It may well be true for many consumer-goods brands, but it is unquestionably so for beer: Brand history is a treasure to be perpetuated, safeguarded, and reverenced.

We recently made that point concerning the distinctiveness of a brand’s hometown, and it’s arguably more consequential for a brand’s history. And for the same reason: This distinctiveness is a brand asset that can only be claimed and put to good use by its rightful owner.

Why then would Stella Artois essentially run advertising that might as well have included this as its final frame?


Think we’re exaggerating? Take a look and see whether this ad strikes you as reinforcing the legitimacy and heritage of the Stella Artois brand…

These questions occurred to us as we watched what seemed far more a mildly amusing–if somewhat tiring–film, and far less a brand-history homage:

– “Inspired by a true story?” Wasn’t the actual “true story” impressive enough?

– Why personify the brewery founder (“I am Sebastian Artois”) from seven centuries ago as a goofy young man who stole puppies to make money to buy a brewery? And do you really believe he found a Van Gogh under his bed?

– Why select a be-boppy rap-ish music track that runs the entire ad? Does that suggest genuine respect for heritage?

– Whose idea of humor was it to show young Artois selling a television set, which wouldn’t have been invented for another 600 years? Again, where’s the respect?

– Finally, why have this faux version of the young brewer come alive today to ask the viewer directly: “So what do you want to be remembered for?” In the case of his namesake brand, perhaps the answer he’s searching for is: fakery, sleight-of-hand, and an embellished resume.

All too often, advertising people have way too little regard for a brand’s history. Maybe it’s because so few of them were history majors. Their aim for the work they create frequently put its “street talk,” and the adulation of their peers, well above whatever goal’s in second place. In their view, history’s too dusty to be “hip.” So, forced to do a brand-history ad–as they no doubt were in this case–they’ll find a way to “have some fun with it.” For them, “reverence” is a foreign concept. A joke’s more to their liking.

Here’s where clients need to fulfill their role as “managers.” With them rests the responsibility for enforcing respect for the assets of their brand, most notably, its history. You don’t make fun of the founder. You don’t make fun of the history. You don’t adjust the brand’s history to make ads so your fellow ad-men-and-women will award you pretentious trophies. And if the ad folks you’re stuck with can’t grasp all that, fire them.

The actual final frame in the ad mysteriously says “Be Legacy.”

Advice to the Stella people: Add “respectful of” between those two words, and you’ll have something.

One Response to “Why would Stella Artois disrespect its own history?”

  1. Alex Fatho-Bland says:

    This is an extreme example of a tone too often visited by brands, having seen it first hand time and again working agency side with the alcohol category for 10 years. The scariest thing is that not just the agencies, but the clients are blind to what they should actually do or communicate in a move to continually attempt to be ‘cool’, with clients so out of touch with their market and culture that they endorse such bumbling pieces of work such as this, that no doubt cost a pretty penny or two.

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