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The Early History of Beer Commercials

The history of beer is a long tale since beer has been with us nearly since man learned to make fermented beverages. Many tales throughout history talk about beer and beer like products. But until recently (historically speaking), beer was just a product made locally and distributed locally through pubs, inns and ale houses. Advertising was unnecessary since much of life centered around the inns as a place to get and disseminate information.

As populations grew and became more decentralized and news became more readily available through printed media like newspapers and magazines, the importance of pubs and inns grew less. At the same time, production of beer was migrating from being a series of local operations to a few very large entities making massive amounts of beer and using innovative packaging and distribution networks to distribute it globally. To keep their companies growing, they needed to advertise their products to ensure that they kept (and even captured more) market share and also to grow market share by building images that would induce people to drink beer and get the same benefits in their life intimated by the advertising pitches.

The birth of sophisticated advertising of beer started shortly after prohibition finished. At that time, the efforts were very cautious. Many changes were occurring in America. Prohibition finished. Television was just starting to grow a viewership base. Advertising on television was a very new and uncertain endeavor. Public opinion about the advertising of beer to a general audience was very mixed.

Against this backdrop, the first efforts to advertise beer on television were very timid – consisting of mostly late night sponsored shows followed by numerous surveys to be sure the commercial efforts were not causing a backlash against the beer companies.Through this initial period of timidity, the beer advertisers learned something very vital. The majority of early television sets were located in neighborhood taverns. (Keep in mind that very early televisions were quite expensive and a television in a tavern was quite a draw.) People would go to the tavern, get a beer and watch a bit of television to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work. In terms of finding a targeted audience, the beer companies couldn’t question for anything better. If they could run a beer commercial for their brand while their customers were in the exact place where they could buy that beer with no effort, what could be better.

From this study was born the link between sports and beer. After all, it was the sporting events that people wanted to watch in taverns (much like in modern sports bars.) The comaraderie of sharing the game with ancient and new friends, drinking beer, celebrating victories and drowning sorrows at losses made the matchup of sports and beer in the 40′s a perfect match. An advertiser couldn’t question for a better demographic and psychographic match than sports and beer.

By the early 50′s, beer commercial advertising and show sponsorship was so accepted that beer was ready to go to prime time television. It started in 1950 when Blatz Beer sponsored the migration of the Amos n’ Andy radio show to television. They invested $250,000 to make this the major event of the year and were wildly successful. In fact they were so successful, they quickly became one of America’s top television advertisers.

Other brewers, seeing the success of Blatz Beer, quickly jumped on the bandwagon and sponsored a variety of other television shows and developed a variety of means to spread the message – testimonials, mini-dramas, celebrity endorsements, demonstrations and identifiable characters – like Mabel, the waitress who would bring the bottle of Carling Black Mark when called with the well-known phrase “Hey Mabel – Black Mark!” In fact this commercial is attributed with growing Carling Brewing Company from number 28 in 1951 to number 6 in 1957.

By the mid-50s, beer commercials were in their heydey. It was huge business run by sharp Madison Avenue ad agencies and beer companies with lots of money to invest in growing their market share. They had learned that the right ad campaign could make their company and the incorrect one could break them quicker than anyone could imagine. Literally, for the first time in history, the fate of beer rested in the ability of the manufacturers to get their message to their current and potential customers delivered in a compelling manner on television. The mantra from this time forward literally became success on tv or perish.

As an fascinating sidenote from the 21st century, the commercials did their work. The many beer companies of the early 20th century dwindled to just a fer very large ones and is now swinging back again with the advent of microbreweries and specialty beers. As peoples wealth grew, their desire for more sophisticated beers grew and now there are microbreweries and specialty beers to satisfy every taste. Of course this is only a small percentage of the beer being offered but you can now go into a supermarket and choose from a large variety of beers – something you couldn’t really do not too many years ago.

Do you like beer and beer history? Then you need to grab a copy of the DVD classic – thehistoricalarchive.com/products/beer.html The History of Beer where you will learn the fascinating process major brewers use to manufacture beer and the levels of sophistication they take in their ad plotting to ensure that you choose their beer as your favorite beverage.

The Historical Archive offers a variety of Historical DVDs and CDs. You can visit us at thehistoricalarchive.com thehistoricalarchive.com and shop our large, robust library of DVD and CD based products covering a wide range of significant and fascinating historical events and cultural moments through film, photos, audios, maps and other documents.

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