Cream-headed smoothie conquers south

FOUR years ago, anyone spouting about a 'straw-coloured' bitter with the 'creamiest of heads', describing a bitter that left a lacy trail behind in the glass and a rich, fruity, chocolate after-taste, would have had to come from Manchester. Nobody else had heard of Boddingtons bitter.

Today, announces Boddingtons Brewery triumphantly, its bitter is recognised nationally as the ultimate 'urban', 'contemporary' drink. In the cask-beer pecking order, it is number three behind Tetley's and John Smith's. Production has risen from 200,000 barrels to 500,000 annually. In 1989, it was not in the top ten.

The secret of its success, says Patrick Langan, the brewery's marketing manager, has been the advertising. The two television commercials known as the 'face-cream' and 'ice-cream' ads, have changed the face of beer advertising.

No longer are beer ads confined to 'love-me, love-my-beer' shoots filmed in pubs. Bitter, once an exclusively male drink for an exclusively cloth-capped drinker, is now being presented as the drink for the modern man, a man under 25 - preferably - who respects his woman, has a flighty lifestyle with lots of unexpected twists and turns and has a sense of humour.

Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the advertising agency, chose to present a Mancunian couple as their prototype of the modern twentysomething couple. Together, the glamorous couple set up a farce parodying well-known cosmetic and ice-cream advertisements.

At the core of the farce is a theme: cream - ice-cream, face-cream, smooth, rich cream - as in 'the best'.

The locations are unexpected: a bedroom scene and a canal in Manchester. Unusually for beer ads, the heroine is allowed to take centre stage. She defies the usual format - where women are little more than stage-props - and holds her own as a confident, brash and funny partner. The viewers' expectations are confounded when the slick, rich front put up by the couple, slips at the sight of a pint of bitter.

'By 'eck, it's gorgeous,' says the woman in the ice-cream advert - in a broad Mancunian accent. With the back of her hand she wipes away a creamy moustache, smearing her immaculate make-up.

'Our advertising campaign has established a personality for the bitter,' Mr Langan said. 'The humour is appreciated nationally. People identify with the couple. They buy the bitter.'

Competitors argue otherwise: the pounds 6m advertising campaign has helped improve sales, but more crucial to Boddingtons' success is the in-built nitrogen-flush in its cans which has allowed the bitter to be transported as a 'draught' nationally.

What is more, says Robert MacNevin, marketing director for Guinness, the flush device was not Boddingtons' idea: Guinness had draught stout on off-licence and supermarket shelves as far back as 1988.

From being a relatively unknown brand, Boddingtons has borrowed the Guinness idea so successfully that it is now the company's main competitor.

Just four years ago, Boddingtons Brewery, as only the local people knew, was a sleepy, red-brick Manchester institution. Brewing techniques had hardly changed. Its bitter was a truly traditional cask-conditioned ale with '200 years' brewing experience in every pint'. It was popular, but only within the Manchester area. Just 5 per cent of sales were outside the North-west territory.

Then in 1989 the independent brewery was taken over by Whitbreads. 'National muscle' was needed to improve distribution, explained the managers. But Mancunians were riled. 'Boddies', as they call it, was their birthright. It was not to be shared.

In 1991 a press campaign was launched. It focused on the 'take-home draught' and the 'cream' factor. 'Boddingtons - the cream of Manchester' ran the strapline. That was the only reference to the bitter's home town. But last year the television campaign was launched by Bartle Bogle Hegarty with a brief to embrace Manchester the city as well as the Boddingtons the bitter.

The first attempt to personify the modern, Mancunian generation was screened with clenched stomachs. 'We were not sure how well Mancunians would receive the joke about the broad Manchester accent,' Mr Langan said.

'They received it well. They were proud to have their city presented to the rest of the country in a stylish, witty way and they are proud of their accent.

'We have tried to nurture this pride using poster boards. All over town we have Boddingtons adverts. It makes the people feel they are part of a familiar territory.'

They appear to have succeeded. The bitter campaign has a cult following. Not only that: more than 50 per cent of total sales are now outside the North-west. By 'eck]

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - North West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - South West

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent