How To Craft The Perfect Beer Ad

I. Intro

We are Straight Shot Post, a boutique editing house, and we are here to help you craft the perfect beer ad. Our collaborators include VaynerMedia, Pixel, and YellowBrick. These enabled us to work with brands such as; Stella Artois, Ketel One, and Canon.

This article is all about helping you to successfully get your audience to drink your client’s beer. We get asked an array of questions about working with clients like Stella. So, we wanted to share with you how to create a strong beer ad concept that will successfully reach your target audience.

Without a strong conceptual base, your beer ad won’t fully reach your target audience. Bottoms up!

I’d start my day by checking email, Twitter, Facebook. Reading the “news”. I’d look at my to-do list and start working on something.

I. Beer Ads Often Fall Into Two Categories

Before pulling out your equipment and gathering crew, ask yourself, “What type of beer ad do I want to make?” Typically, beer ads are centered around one of two categories:

  • Brand awareness
  • Product focused

Knowing which category your ad will fall under is a crucial first step.

a. “We’ll Meet Again” – Heineken

To understand brand awareness, look no further than Heineken’s “We’ll Meet Again” spot. No closeups featuring an ice-cold bottle, no bubbly pours, no glasses with the Heineken logo taking up half the frame. Instead, it has a message for you. When the pandemic is over, celebrate going out with a Heineken!

“We’ll Meet Again” is directed at a specific type of person. The 20’s/30’s city-folk who can’t wait to socialize again. And when they’re finally able to, Heineken will be ready to celebrate with a cold one. This approach builds a community, one that audiences will strive to be part of. And when they finally go out again, they will think of Heineken.

b. “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual” – Stella Artois

On the flip side, Stella Artois’ “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual” places the product front and center. It doesn’t tell you who drinks Stella Artois and why, but it makes Stella look so great that you simply want to drink one now. Filled to the brim with closeups of pouring beer, it gives the impression that Stella Artois is delectable liquid gold.

“The 9-Step Pouring Ritual” also ensures that Stella Artois cements itself as a classy beer in the audience’s minds. This is a beer with elegance, austerity, and bold flavors straight from Belgian brewing history. To enjoy Stella properly, you need a ritual.

Both of these ads are targeted towards the same people since both beers are international imports. The execution is where they differ. Stella’s ad spends all its time convincing you that you need a Stella right this second, while Heineken’s subconsciously will stick in your brain whenever you go out with friends.

No matter what type of ad you choose, make sure to keep its purpose in mind. This will affect how you shoot, edit, and finish your ad.

Distractions aside, there was no real rhyme or reason to my workflow. The not-so-fun (but necessary) stuff kept getting neglected.

II. Pre-Production

Pre-Production consists of various preparatory work that ensures everything is in place for you to shoot the best beer ad possible.

a. Scripting

Scriptwriting encompasses the entire creative concept of the ad, but on paper. If your ad leans towards brand awareness, craft a story that ties an audience to your beer. Heineken targeted urbanites who missed the nightlife, a very specific group of people. Find who you want to drink your beer with, and focus your story on them.

If your ad is product focussed, try to beat out every video and audio beat:

  • What angles?
  • What type of cuts?
  • What’s the timing?
  • Is it dialogue/voice over? Both?
  • What does each shot require?

Here’s an example of a completed commercial script.

b. Locations

Pick locations that enhance your story or product. Stella Artois’ “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual” was shot in a white studio. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the golden pour of Stella since they have nothing else to look at.

Heineken used a cityscape, a laundromat, and a bar to accentuate the city life that was dearly missed in the pandemic. If you’re building brand awareness, use locations that are nostalgic or emotionally tied to your target audience.

c. Casting

“Socialites like us drink Heineken.” The people in Heineken’s spot are diverse, but they’re all a certain type. From the wardrobe to everything else, these are young and hip city dwellers, not homebodies.

In Stella’s, the hand model had to know how to do the 9-step pour. The limited knowledge of the pour accentuates Stella’s selectivity. Not only does their beer require a ritual, but it’s also selective. The more selective and special the beer, the more people who want “in”.

d. Props/Costuming

Props and Costuming are pretty straightforward for any set that’s not shot in a studio. Make sure the costuming, props, and overall set dressing fit the story you are telling. Heineken does this brilliantly with the heels, shopping bags, and empty bar/diner seats in “We’ll Meet Again.” Everything in the frame screams “Nightlife Lives On!”

Studio pieces are all slightly different, but there is one staple in beer ads. The spray bottle. No beer can or bottle comes out of the cooler looking that wet. It takes time for perspiration to form naturally on a cold surface. But when we see those droplets, the cold beer calls out to us. So, make sure you have a spray bottle handy on set to make the beer “sweat.”

III. Production

The way a beer ad is shot will dictate the style of the entire piece. If you follow all the planning from the previous step, you should be ready to execute a piece that has a singular purpose and audience in mind.

a. Shooting

Camera movement is key in product focussed beer commercials, there are very few shots in which both the camera and product are completely stable. Either the beer is moving, pouring, or spinning, or the camera is moving around it.

One way to achieve movement is to use a gimbal or dolly. Just make sure whichever one you go with moves the way you want it to. If your budget is tight, you can creatively find ways to move the beer bottle itself. Use this video as an example.

When building brand awareness, shoot to accentuate the actions of your target audience. Heineken uses push-ins, pull-outs, and quick pans to follow the energetic action of city life. It wouldn’t make sense to shoot this piece on sticks the entire time, since the audience wouldn’t feel part of the city bustle. They would feel like voyeurs, which is the last thing you want if the goal is to build a community.

b. Sound

A lot of commercials use soundtracks or voiceovers to convey their message. “We’ll Meet Again” doesn’t use any dialogue, neither does “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual.” A simple soundtrack meets the demand of the pieces; and serves to focus your attention on the visuals.

There are many uses for dialogue in ads, the most important being explaining why your product is the best of the best. However, if you don’t need it, let the product and visuals speak for themselves.

IV. Editing

a. Alignment and Roadmap

This is where the magic comes together. Here at Straight Shot Post, we use Puzzle-Piece Editing, which is a tactical, question-based approach to storytelling. It is our belief that it is not our job to judge a video, that is left for the audience. Our job is to bring your vision from concept to content.

We normally do not help with pre-production and production. So we must do an alignment meeting to understand your piece. The alignment meeting consists of these questions:

  • What is the story, and who is it for?
  • How should the story make us feel?
  • Who is the target audience, and who is the creator?

For example, for the Stella Artois ad we edited, the answers looked like this:

  • The story is that Stella Artois is such a special beer that it requires a 9-step ritual to be enjoyed properly.
  • The ad should make us feel like Stella Artois is a classy beer, drank by a select few who understand the ritual. It should make us want to be part of this group.
  • The target audience is drinkers of imported beer, who have refined taste. The creator is Stella Artois, an imported beer.

But, for a spot like Heineken’s “We’ll Meet Again,” the answer would look very different. Something along these lines:

  • The story is about city socialites in their mid-20’s looking to enjoy themselves despite the pandemic.
  • The ad should make us reminisce on the days of nightlife and packed bars, and how enjoyable it was to go out drinking with friends.
  • The target audience is everyone stuck inside, unable to enjoy their youth in a big city. The creator is Heineken, who’s ready to celebrate nightlife when the time comes again.

After we are fully aligned, we create a roadmap. We start with a strong one-sentence summary of the piece and its goal. We call this the North Star. Then we write what we imagined the ideal completed “puzzle,” would be. This will outline the theme, and define an arc for the piece.

This is the roadmap that we will follow while editing.

It is critical in this process that you are not limited by:

  • What was shot?
  • What was missed?
  • How does anyone feel about it?

Let your roadmap be an ideal version of the ad.

b. Execution and Assembly

Time to execute the roadmap and piece together an assembly of the ad. Always start with substance, then add style. What we mean by this is; make sure the story is pieced together first, then add stylistic embellishments such as transitions, sound effects, and other details.

Our first assembly of Stella’s “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual” included all 9 steps, in the correct order. When selecting shots, we selected the ones which showed the process in the most concise way.

Entrances were crucial to this stage; since the motion in the shots was so slow. We didn’t have much time to show each step, so we had to choose the most important 3-5 seconds of each. The beer was the hero of the ad, so all entrances were focused around when the beer started pouring.

Once the rough assembly was complete we finessed the edits to pace the 9 steps more efficiently; and cut the ad with the soundtrack. The next steps were details such as tone, performance, visuals, and emotional impact.

We added a lot of slow digital pans and zoom-ins to Stella’s piece, to keep the motion discussed earlier in the article. Either the camera is moving, or the product is. There were a few shots in which neither were, so we had to add digital movement. We also added movement to the titles to keep the motion flowing.

The emotional impact was specifically important for Stella’s piece; since the classy air that comes along with the beer is crucial to the brand. We used slow motion, glows, and other visual flares to accent this. The music track also helped, since it ended on a strict note. The piece built up to the Stella Artois logo; and concisely finished on it.

For Heineken’s piece, the structure is drastically different. The roadmap for an ad like that might focus on the story instead of logical sequencing to set the atmosphere for the story. The first few shots of the ad are of people getting ready to go out by putting on makeup, washing their teeth, and dressing up nicely.

Expectations are then subverted later; when all these people do is take out the trash since they can’t go party during a pandemic. This creates a nostalgic feeling in the audience, who also wishes they could go out and have fun.

The embellishments on the Heineken ad would also include pacing, but more importantly performance. The selected shots must include the best performances from the actors, or else the audience won’t believe these people are truly in their community of nightlife lovers.

The song “We’ll Meet Again” did wonders for Heineken’s emotional impact, since the lyrics convey the entire theme of the piece: We’ll all meet again when this pandemic is over, hopefully at a bar and with a Heineken in our hands.

Once the edit is finished, we approve the cut internally by reviewing it with the questions from our alignment meeting and roadmap. If the ad answers the questions truthfully and we are satisfied with it, the edit is done.

V. Finishing

Your ad isn’t fully done yet. Color correction/grading and sound bring it across the finish line, making sure it looks and sounds the best it possibly can. Without this step, you’ll be left with a half-baked product.

a. Color Grading

Brands and companies each have highly specific company colors. If these colors are shown in the logo, or anywhere in your ad, you better make sure they’re spot on. In “The 9-Step Pouring Ritual,” the red on the Stella Artois logo makes an appearance in quite a few shots. This color is a brand color; and has to be the same red throughout the ad.

Also, the beer! If beer, in any glass, bottle, etc. is shown, its color absolutely must remain consistent. Even amateur viewers will immediately notice something off if it isn’t. Not to mention, the color of most beer in ads is slightly more orange/gold than the actual beer. Tinting it gold is more visually appealing than the pale yellow color of most beers.

Another key aspect of color grading in all ads, not just beer, is skin tone. If any human talent is shown, their skin must be perfectly graded to the standard IRE (exposure) and hue for human skin. Humans are drawn to humans, and we have a naturally sharp eye for discrepancies in the skin.

b. Sound

Sound mixing ensures that all sounds present in your ad do not drown each other out, or distract from the piece. If you are using a soundtrack, make sure it properly sits under the voiceover or dialogue.

If the piece is simply just music and sound effects, then make sure the effects are easily distinguishable and not lost in the music. Music with words is normally a no-go, simply because lyrics are distracting and will take away from the visuals and other sounds present.

However, if you are using lyrical music for a theme like in Heineken’s spot, make sure the audience can focus on the story in frame and lyrics at the same time. They should meld together well, not compete.

VI. Conclusion

The perfect beer ad always starts with a purpose and a target audience in mind. These central focus points should dictate how the ad is conceived, written, shot, edited, and finished. A single purpose helps specify the ad; and get a specific group of people to buy your client’s product.

When you bring all these elements together, you’ll have created the perfect beer ad; one with substance and style, strong purpose, and a full story arc. The perfect beer ad always starts with a purpose and a target audience in mind. Remember, it is not our job to judge a video, it is left for the audience. But you must still make sure you understand the direction the piece will be heading in. Know whether the video is created for brand awareness or product marketing. Mark your North Star and follow it with your roadmap. Pay close attention to detail and use the central focus points discussed above to dictate how the ad is conceived, written, shot, edited, and finished. When you understand the goal of the piece, the road to the idealized completed puzzle becomes more clear. A single purpose helps specify the ad; and get a specific group of people to buy your client’s product.

If you have any questions or need help, please reach out and contact us! We’d love to talk with you and help out with whatever your needs may be.

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