Newcastle Brown Ale Gets Even More Honest

Droga5 pairs candid one-liners with still photos in latest 'No Bollocks' ads

Headshot of Tim Nudd

IDEA: Most brands are liars—fabulists, fabricators, tellers of half-truths and falsehoods, terrified of disclosing their real agenda (to take your money). In beer ads, the lies are legendary. The beer will get you the girl, make you cool, give you the best night of your life. All that, says Newcastle Brown Ale, is bullshit—or in the British brand's native slang, bollocks (conveniently, a more broadcast-friendly term). For its second year, Droga5 has fine-tuned its "No Bollocks" campaign for the brewer by taking the kind of pithy, comically frank one-liners it's honed on Facebook over the past year and building snappy, visually simple 15-second TV ads around them. There are five spots so far, with more on the way, all poking holes at deceptive beer advertising, and portraying Newcastle not as the more upstanding marketer but at least the more honest one. The idea came from the no-nonsense attitude of working-class Newcastle itself, but it's also, of course, a sly challenger-brand positioning. "We're a very good beer. We're also a beer with a personality," said brand director Charles van Es. "But I'm not going to lie to you. It's about having more people talk about us and buy a lot of Newcastle."

COPYWRITING: The ads pair wry voiceovers with still photos. "In 1927, Colonel James Porter handcrafted Newcastle Brown Ale. But handcrafting was a nightmare. So now we handcraft the same delicious beer with huge, giant machines," says the voice in one, as old shots of brewers stirring a batch give way to those of a modern factory floor. In another, the voice says: "Great times guaranteed. Unless you're having a crap time. Then we can't guarantee much at all"—as happy bar scenes take a turn for the worse. "Sometimes you do have a fight with your girlfriend, or you're sitting alone at the bar, peeling a logo off a bottle," said Droga5 copywriter Ant White. "To have the confidence to show that was really refreshing." "We use ourselves as an example of what's wrong with marketing," added group strategy director Tom Naughton. "It would be naive of us to say, 'Everyone else is doing it wrong, and we're perfect.' But we're going to tell you how we're doing it."

ART DIRECTION: Droga5 hired nine photographers, gave them a general sense of what to shoot, and let them loose. The agency now has a bank of 25,000 photos to use for future ads and Facebook posts. "It's still photography, not moving image—very basic, all shot in a realistic way," said van Es. "We don't put supermodels in our ads. We show the people who drink the beer. We visually represent what we stand for." There is no director—the creatives work with editor Gary Knight of Cut+Run to piece the spots together.

TALENT: The voiceover is Ralph Ineson, who played Finchy on the British version of The Office. "He was the guy who told it like it is to David Brent," White said. "He got it instantly. He's like the guy who'll sit next to you at the bar and say these one-liners to you. That's what we were looking for."

SOUND: The same goofy, polka-style song plays in all the spots: "The Gonk," by Herbert Chappell, best known for having been used (with zombie moans added) in Dawn of the Dead. "We were using it as placeholder, but we couldn't beat it," said White. "It's this repetitive, almost confident sound. It has no ending, either, which is quite funny. It's like, 'Here we go, we're telling a one-liner … and we're out.' "

MEDIA: TV and online. In-bar materials include The Best Coaster in the World (a ludicrous beer coaster that's socially networked) and a tap-handle QR code that promises to find the nearest Newcastle. "There it is," your phone says after scanning it, as an arrow points to the tap.




Client: Heineken USA, Newcastle Brown Ale

VP of Marketing, Dos Equis, Amstel Light, Newcastle Brown Ale and

Strongbow Cider: Matt Kahn

Brand Director, Newcastle Brown Ale: Charles van Es

Agency: Droga5, New York

Creative Chairman: David Droga

Executive Creative Directors: Ted Royer, Nik Studzinski

Copywriter: Ant White

Art Director: Karen Land

Photographer: Paul Mcgeiver

Head of Integrated Production: Sally-Ann Dale

Agency Producer: Sarah Frances Hartley

Art Producer: Maggy Lynch-Hartley

Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer

Group Strategy Director: Tom Naughton

Strategist: Matthew Gardner

Group Account Director: Nick Phelps

Account Director: Lauren Solomon

Production Company: Webber Represents, Ny

Photographers: Jenny Heuston, Magdalena Wosinska, Mark Peckmezian, Scott Pommier, Will Mebane, Peden & Munk, Jane Mcleishkelsey, Chris Searl. Getty Images, Age Foto Stock, Ian Dobson Archive

Senior Agent: Tom Claxton

Editorial: Cut & Run

Editor: Gary Knight

Assistant Editor: Stacy Peterson

Post Production: The Mill

Colorist: Fergus Mccall

Senior Smoke Artist: Jeff Robins

Music: "The Gonk" by Herbert Chappel

Sound: Sonic Union

Mixer: David Papa

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.