PBR’s Stronger Seltzer Wears Its Potency on Its Sleeve in These Launch Ads

It's 8% alcohol by volume and proud of it

For the launch of Pabst Blue Ribbon Stronger Seltzer, agency BBH New York created bold animations geared around strength.
BBH New York

Pabst Blue Ribbon isn’t the first to market with a flavored, alcoholic seltzer. In fact, it’s jumping into a category that’s officially on fire this summer, driven by brands like White Claw and Truly, with beer giants Anheuser-Busch (Bon & Viv) and MillerCoors (Henry’s Hard Sparkling Water) also trying to grab their share of consumers’ bar tabs.

But PBR has a trick up its sleeve, especially if alcohol-by-volume is a deciding factor for drinkers: Stronger Seltzer is exactly that, with 8% alcohol content as its “defining characteristic,” according to the BBH New York designer behind the launch ads. (Most competitors are 4% to 5%, topping out at 6%).

Fittingly called “Stronger than you think,” the campaign tosses that 8% number around liberally and pulls inspiration from user-generated artwork and psychedelia to hype the carbonated cocktail. A series of colorful, animated short videos hit social and digital platforms Tuesday.

“The goal was to design a distinctive and flexible look and feel that carries over the quirky, handcrafted qualities of the playful fan art Pabst has always embraced,” says BBH designer-illustrator Rachel Hess. “I ended up creating a set of quirky, mythical hands crunching a personified PBR Stronger Seltzer can with the intent of exaggerating strength and bringing a fun little interaction to life.”

BBH developed the campaign on “a small budget and a unique compensation model.” Translation: the agency was paid in a year’s supply of beer.

As part of the new product launch, BBH linked with nonprofit storytelling group The Moth for an experiential activation in Los Angeles, providing the theme (“Stronger”) for the live story slam held Tuesday night in the hip Silver Lake neighborhood.

This was the call-out for would-be performers: “Prepare a five-minute story about strengthening the mind, body or spirit. Stories of hard work, grit or glory. Testing your brawn and identifying your weaknesses. Training in the ring, in the library or on the streets. Going the distance and keeping your eye on the prize. What doesn’t kill you…”

The evening’s storytellers included an actress who struggled with infertility, a lawyer who experimented with illicit drugs to treat his depression (with surprisingly hilarious results) and an “egregiously” late bloomer who tangled with a middle school bully. (Winner: a mother of two who beat cancer).

Stronger Seltzer was flowing freely (and free) at the bar, and L.A.-based PBR got lots of face time and shoutouts from the stage. The show was taped for airing later on media partners like KCRW.

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