BrewDog accused of targeting small brewery with billboard placement
Lost and Grounded Brewers in Bristol alleges that BrewDog may have deliberately placed billboards in close proximity to its own premises in a bid to lure away custom.
Bristol-based Lost and Grounded took to Twitter this week to express disappointment that two BrewDog billboards have been placed within 100 metres of the small brewery, now one of the fastest growing in the UK.
The placement has especially raised eyebrows as the name of the beer that BrewDog is advertising on the billboards is ‘Lost Lager’, which shares a remarkable similarity with the small brewery’s ‘Lost and Grounded’ name.
“Coincidence?” the Tweet said. “So it turns out @BrewDogHQ has decided to focus it’s ‘Lost Lager’ campaign directly outside of our brewery on Whitby Road, Bristol. Not one but two billboards touting Lost Lager, literally both less than 100m from the home of Keller Pils.”
The brewery’s flagship 4.8% ABV Keller Pils uses Pilsner malt from Germany and the hop varieties Magnum, Perle and Hallertauer Mittelfruh. By contrast, BrewDog’s new Lost Lager is a 4.5% ABV German-style Pilsner using Select, Spalter and Saphir hops.
Lost and Grounded co-founder Alex Troncoso told the drinks business that an employee first noticed the billboards on the night of 11 May. When asked whether he thought BrewDog was targeting a smaller brewer, Troncoso said “I don’t really know for sure – it may be as simple as there’s hundreds of billboards across the UK giving blanket coverage.”
However, he continued, “it seems like a bit of a coincidence that it is so near to the brewery. Whitby Road is very quiet and a bit of an obscure place to put two different billboards up.”
The wording of the billboards has also come under criticism. One billboard near the site mentions “exquisitely photoshopped size zero models… holding beers they’ve never tasted”.
Troncoso explains that some of the team had been discussing the implications of the advert: “it’s sort of assuming that women don’t drink beer…or that women who are a certain size can’t drink beer.”
The second billboard, a reference to Danish movie star Mads Mikkelsen’s Carlsberg adverts, has also been met with disapproval, and allegations of hypocrisy from beer writer Matthew Curtis.
“Shameful,” he Tweeted. “It’s also worth pointing out this ad is a pop at Mads Mikkelsen (net worth a reported US$14 million)… when James Watt’s net worth is a reported £262 million. Hubris, hypocrisy, and endlessly tiresome.”
BrewDog has been dogged by allegations of deceit, a toxic work culture and inappropriate conduct from its CEO and co-founder James Watt. Though Watt publicly announced his decision to hand over £100million of his stake in the company to employees earlier this month, neither this, nor the latest advertising campaign, have been met with universal praise.
However, BrewDog’s marketing has always thrived off controversy and antagonism towards what the multinational brewery and pub chain deems to be “big beer”.
In 2021, an advert claiming the health benefits of hard seltzer was reused, despite a watchdog ruling to ban it.
Though the content of the Lost Lager adverts is directed at bigger beer companies than Lost and Grounded, some feel it is rather a case of Goliath encroaching on David’s territory.
“Consumers can spend their money anywhere they want, but maybe they should think about how that company acts”, Troncoso suggests. “We work in an inclusive structure where our team are our superstars – we are focused on building a socially conscious business.”
db has contacted BrewDog for comment.