“He who drinks Australian, thinks Australian”

 

The first time I lived in Australia was back in the ‘90s, for a couple of years.  The day I arrived friends took me to a bar and I ordered a Fosters. But instead of the expected warm glow of approval for choosing a classic Aussie lager, my request was met with derision. It was quickly explained to me in no uncertain terms that no-one in Australia drinks Fosters. I argued that this couldn’t be true, reminding my friends that Fosters was ‘The Australian for lager’. I pointed out that arguably the most famous Aussie on the planet, their compatriot Paul Hogan, was partial to a drop of “the amber nectar”. Five minutes and one amused explanation later I realised I’d been the naive victim of a disingenuous marketing campaign. It felt to me like the adult version of being told Father Christmas doesn’t exist.

The more discerning drinkers among you will be wondering what kind of loser orders a glass of weak, fizzy piss in the first place. But there was a good reason, honest. Growing up in Essex and London, Fosters had always been the drink of choice among my mates and I. Around the age of 18, the words “Four pints of Fosters please mate” tumbled out of my mouth with such alarming regularity that I often wondered about getting them printed onto a T-shirt, or perhaps tattooed onto my forehead.

We loved Fosters because it was cold, it was fizzy, it was everywhere and it was…consistent. Andy Warhol once wrote, You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.” I felt the same way about Fosters.

Looking back, it’s fascinating to see how the Fosters campaign developed. Product points of difference are notoriously thin on the ground in the beer category so to have leveraged such a memorable and ownable territory was seriously clever. Celebrity assets tend to have a limited shelf life and brand owners like to feel an idea is bigger that an individual personality. So it was smart to move on from Paul Hogan but keep the Australian angle. It led to ads like the one above. I remember seeing this in the cinema and the whole place erupting with laughter. Viral in the days before viral, in the sense that people talked about it, told their mates about it, recounted the gag in pubs.

It’s interesting to see that the Australian strategy lives on today, in the ‘Good Call’ campaign. The current ads are good but they’re not a shade on this classic. He who drinks Australian, thinks Australian felt like a really big idea that could and should have run for years. Properly funny and disruptive, it still seems great to me, decades on. Unlike the taste of Fosters.

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About antmelder
Creative Partner at DDB Sydney; passionate vegetarian; lover of books, boxing and Bruce Springsteen.

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