Not the bottles, or the cans, or the can-like bottles. The beer.
Just take a good look. Virtually every commercial is jammed with all sorts of stuff. Bud Light gives us a crazy party. Coors Light gives us a frosty train. Miller Lite gives us something… I can’t remember. And on and on. Laughs, celebrities, mountain-climbing, you name it. But can anyone find me a beautiful bit of video showing a frothy, full-force pour of golden beer into a crystal-clear mug? Honestly, I’ve looked and have come up… empty.
“BBP” (for “beautiful beer photography”) used to have at least a walk-on role in nearly every beer commercial made. There were times when the entire 30 seconds was devoted to this sort of photography. “Romancing the product” was considered so important, and so talent-sensitive, these precious moments of splendor in the beer were filmed by specialists, not the commercial-production studios responsible for the remainder of the ad.
Big Beer brands maintained libraries of their BBP footage: perfectly poured, bubbly-golden beer in logo glassware; “over-pour” shots with just the most evocative foamy ending; bottles being slowly pulled from icy water; sequences of bottle caps separating with a burst of spray and vapor; and ultra slow-motion shots of a single ice chip making its erratic way down the outside of a beer glass, trailing a path of disturbed condensation.
I don’t think so.
In our list of Seven Sins of Beer Advertising, we pointed out that beer is a food product. “Liquid bread,” as many brewmasters are fond of saying. As such, like virtually every other food, beer's sensory properties can awaken in folks an almost irresistible urge for a sample. Think of BBP as the visual equivalent of that most powerfully evocative of stimuli—the scent of bread just pulled from the oven. Visually arresting beer (or warm bread) photography can definitely trigger craving.
We used to include an appetite-rating in every beer-commercial research study. In the litany of little assessments the respondents had to make was always this one: “Makes me thirsty.” It certainly wasn't the only measurement we looked at, but we never ignored it, either. It could help assess whether the ad was working—forgive the pun—on a gut level. When advertising can touch appetites directly, and circumvent all the defensive measures consumers rely on to keep selling messages out, it’s definitely accomplished something of value.
Happily, some beer marketers still embrace and exploit this phenomenon. By and large, they are the guys selling more expensive beers or imports. Many of them treat their beer with a respect bordering on veneration. A sampling...
If so, what a shame.
Who wouldn't rather watch beer cascading provacatively into a glass, than, say, Arnold Schwarzenegger playing ping pong badly?