Samuel Adams: ads that actually educate

by: BeerAdvocate on 03-30-2005
What with our shrinking national attention span and everything, it becomes more difficult to capture an audience through television commercials. Using beer as an example, many companies give in, and resort to producing ridiculous ads that snake their ways into our minds-and you can't beat 'em out with a stick, either! And sure, some are funny, but most just contribute to the dumbing down of palates and beer culture in America.

Chapter 4: Bavarian Hops (Samuel Adams)Recent spots by the Boston Beer Company, brewers of the Samuel Adams brand, have moved away from this approach, and have started producing a series of commercials that actually educates viewers. In a 30-second spot, founder Jim Koch talks about the importance of hops in beer, with images of a recent hop-buying trip and quality inspection at a hop farm in Germany-something he personally does each year. He opens with: “Hops are to beer what grapes are to wine,” and adds that they “really are the soul of the beer,” as he pulls a handful of fresh hops to his face and inhales deeply.

Here's what Koch had to say to us about the ads, and his love of hops.

BA: Why the change in focus with your TV ads? It's a very effective and positive change in our opinion, just curious, as it's a total 180 from your most recent campaigns.

Jim Koch, Founder and Brewer (Samuel Adams)Koch: Last fall, we had some people in Germany taping our hops selection in Bavaria. At the time we were thinking of using the pictures on our website or at the tour center here in Boston. After we saw the tape we realized that we might have a bigger opportunity to communicate to drinkers about the history and lore of hops. We got excited about educating drinkers about quality beer and about Samuel Adams. To me (and all of us here) beer has all the variety, quality and nobility of wine without the snobbery. And hops are very much like grapes. I wanted to bring to TV the kind of information we've always used in my radio ads to elevate drinker's understanding of beer. And so we began to work on the spot that you saw, Bavarian Hops.

BA: "Chapter Four: Bavarian Hops" is currently airing, can you tell us how many other chapters you plan on producing, and what the topics will be? And why start with chapter four?

Jim Koch sniffing some hops, very deeply (Samuel Adams)Koch: We don't really know how many chapters there will be yet. There is so much that beer drinkers need to know about Samuel Adams and quality beer in general. Throughout the year we will show more spots. We have several that we're working on. Over the years, I've done over a hundred different radio spot talking about beer. I think there is at least that many possibilities for TV. There are so many cool things to tell people about great beer. With TV you can show people pictures so there's more we can do than with radio. And you never know where cool stuff will come from. (We had a guy with a video camera at the Extreme Beer Festival .) And people really don't know much about the ingredients, brewing process, history, breweries etc. of beer. There is an endless opportunity to educate people about beer.

We started with Chapter four because it worked so well for George Lucas when he did Star Wars. I hope it doesn't take twenty five years for us to get to chapter one.

BA: As one of America's largest craft brewers, why the very specific focus on Bavarian hops in the ad? What's the message you hope to convey to viewers through this?

Take pride in your beer (Samuel Adams)Koch: With the hops spots we want to teach people about hops and why they're important in beer. I knew that very few beer drinkers knew much about hops and even fewer understood that great hops have the same territory issues that the finest grapes have. For example, only the most knowledgeable homebrewers and a few beer drinkers know about Noble Hops. We want beer drinkers to know how far we go to get the best hops in the world and much care and passion we put into the selection of hops to brew the best possible Samuel Adams.

The spot ends with Koch pouring a Sam Adams and the message: “Take pride in your beer.” Boston Beer Company can now take pride in their commercials too, and we can only hope that more breweries follow their lead to educate consumers vs. treating them like brainless wallets.

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