November 12, 1998


          Can Teutonic Qualities Help Beck's Double Its Beer


          By CONSTANCE L. HAYS

              Who ever said you couldn't score points with a client
              by making fun of his heritage?

          That was the formula settled on by a creative team from
          the Saatchi & Saatchi unit of Saatchi & Saatchi PLC when
          they sat down to figure out how to sell more Beck's beer
          for Brauerei Beck & Co., the German brewery. After
          flopping badly in the early 1990s, Beck's has recovered
          enough to become the No. 5 imported beer in the United
          States last year, according to sales data recorded by
          Impact, a trade publication.

          Sales of Beck's beer rose 11 percent last year, to 7.4
          million cases from 6.7 million, said Frank Walters,
          director of research at Impact. That is still lower than
          the 8 million cases sold in 1990, the peak year for
          Beck's in the United States, he noted, but the brand is
          on the upswing, partly because of a new management team
          and sales force. The brand is also buoyed by the growth
          of imported beers in the United States in general. Sales
          of imported beers increased by 12 percent a year in 1997
          over the previous year and left the flat domestic beer
          business in the dust.

          Executives of Beck's, based in Bremen, knew they wanted
          to extend their turnaround. They were prepared to spend
          a lot of money by their standards: $20 million, twice
          the size of any previous U.S. advertising budget for the
          company, in the belief that more advertising would add
          momentum to sales. "We are totally committed to the
          states," said Axel Meermann, Beck's global marketing
          director. "We want to double our business in six years,
          and we are in year two right now."

          And despite possessing normal amounts of patriotic
          pride, somehow the company was also prepared to accept
          the recommendation of the Saatchi team that the new ad
          campaign be centered on commercials that poke fun at
          German stereotypes.

          The Saatchi executives, Tod Seisser and Jennifer Laing,
          found after conducting focus groups and what Miss Laing,
          chairwoman and chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi
          North America, called "psychological probes" that the
          Germanic associations of Beck's were what its drinkers
          -- described as males ages 19 to 35, well educated, into
          sports and achievement of all kinds -- most admired.

          "It's a boy brand," Miss Laing said. "German is the
          ideal to the American male. It's strong, and it's all
          about precision and expertise. We said: 'If you leverage
          your German-ness, that's really potent for this
          particular target audience. It just triggers all the
          things they want to think about themselves."' But, Miss
          Laing added, the brand lacked easy recognition, which
          means a lot in the world of commercial buzz. Some people
          even have trouble distinguishing it from Heineken, which
          comes in a similar green bottle.

          After exploring a handful of options, she and Seisser
          concluded that the best way to both capitalize on the
          Teutonic qualities and appeal to potential Beck's
          drinkers was to take a humorous view of certain German
          propensities. "This one got ticks on all the dimensions
          we cared about," Miss Laing said of the final campaign.

          The commercials, which will be broadcast during sports
          events and late-night shows starting next Wednesday,
          make fun of a certain Teutonic obsession with control,
          using various scenarios whose humor would come through
          whether it was a beer ad or a late-night comedy skit.
          They were heartily endorsed by Meermann, who might have
          been a bit puzzled at first about what made them so

          In one, a blond actor struggles to get comfortable on a
          couch for a relaxation session. He is wearing a stiff
          white shirt and tie and is listening to a compact disk
          titled "Das Kalm."

          "Commence relaxation now," an offscreen voice commands.
          It does not work out well.

          "Germans don't do laid back," the announcer intones in
          an unmistakable German accent. "They do beer."

          In another, two actors are playing a key scene from
          "Romeo and Juliet." The dialogue is in German, and the
          actors are in brittle-looking, larger-than-life costumes
          that Seisser, the chief creative officer at Saatchi &
          Saatchi New York, said were inspired by archival
          photographs of a Bertold Brecht play from the 1930s. The
          actors lack any semblance of passion. "Germans don't do
          romance," the announcer says.

          And in a third, Michael Schenk, a German actor, plays a
          comedian whose delivery and brand of humor fail to
          connect with his audience. The room is almost empty, and
          Schenk's jokes, complete with references to Berlin, fall
          flat. "Thank you," he says, to a smattering of hollow
          applause. "I'll be here all ze week."

          "Germans don't do comedy," the announcer says.

          "This is a very rich area," Seisser said. "It could go
          on for 10 years. There are certain things Germans are
          very, very good at, and certain things they're not good
          at, just like everybody else."

          References to old Beck's advertising were incorporated
          in the new commercials. In all three spots, a bottle of
          Beck's is slammed down on a counter for emphasis, just
          as in earlier Beck's ads. But there is a new slogan this
          time: "The best of what Germans do best." As Seisser put
          it, "It reinforces our superiority within that set, and
          it sounded good."

          Print ads are also scheduled to appear, along with
          billboards and radio spots. And the humor, while it may
          have taken some getting used to, is thought to be right
          for the American market.

          "For me, it's hard," Meermann admitted. "I can smile,
          but it's hard to think about whether that stereotype is
          realistic." But he added, "As long as you, as a German,
          make a joke at your own expense, it's OK"


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