Foster's Group Limited

Author:Susan Risland, Mark Lane
Pages:569-573
 
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77 Southbank Blvd.

Southbank, Victoria 3006

Australia

Telephone: 61 3 96332000

Fax: 61 3 96332000

Web site: www.fostersgroup.com

HOW TO SPEAK AUSTRALIAN CAMPAIGN
OVERVIEW

In 1990 Foster's Lager, owned by Foster's Group Limited (previously Foster's Brewing Group) and distributed and marketed by Miller Brewing Company in the United States, began pursuing a U.S. strategy of associating itself with "Australianness." After a detour away from this marketing strategy, Miller and its Foster's agency, Angotti, Thomas, Hedge of New York, in 1994 released "How to Speak Australian," which became one of the longest-running and most popular beer advertising campaigns of its time.

"How to Speak Australian" began with spot placements in regional markets and an estimated budget of $3 million. In 1997 Miller made it a national campaign and increased the budget to approximately $10 million. From 1994 to 2001 the campaign's central idea remained consistent. TV spots introduced a word or term, such as "Room Service," and then showed what that term meant in Australia; in this case, it meant a live chicken and a meat cleaver delivered to a hotel guest's room. Following such arresting redefinitions of commonplace terms was an image of the Foster's can, labeled "Beer." The commercials closed with the tagline "Fosters. Australian for Beer." Print, outdoor, and radio executions followed this basic model, which seemed virtually inexhaustible. Four to six new TV spots were crafted each year, and the consistency of the platform also meant that old spots could be recycled as long as they remained fresh.

"How to Speak Australian" won a Silver EFFIE Award in 1994 and a Gold EFFIE in 1995, and the Foster's brand grew rapidly in the United States through 1998. The campaign remained popular, and the brand continued to grow, but by 2000 Foster's sales had begun to be eclipsed by other beers in the imported-beer market. Some analysts believed that Miller had missed an opportunity to turn Foster's into an import stalwart along the lines of category-leading Corona Extra. After the dissolution of Angotti, Thomas, Hedge in 2001 Miller assigned the Foster's advertising account to Chicago's J. Walter Thompson agency. J. Walter Thompson made an unsuccessful attempt to reinterpret what was by then a classic advertising campaign, and in the following years Miller continued searching for the right agency to update the Foster's identity.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In the 1980s the Foster's Brewing Group (which later bought heavily into wine brands and dropped "Brewing" from its name) set out to make its undistinguished namesake brew stand out from the pack of Australian beers by raising its profile internationally. As the brand attained

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A still from the "Guppy" television ad for Foster's "How to Speak Australian" campaign. Miller Brewing Company. Reproduced by Permission. status outside of Australia, Australians themselves began drinking it in larger numbers. By the mid-1980s Foster's was at the top of the Australian beer heap, and its international image was strengthened by a series of commercials in the United Kingdom featuring the actor Paul Hogan, then a TV personality trafficking in the supposedly quintessential Australianness that he would go on to parlay into international fame in the movie Crocodile Dundee (1986). Foreign sales became a prime source of Foster's revenue, and in the early 1990s the company set out to brand itself in the United States by playing up its Australian roots. An unproductive detour away from this strategy was scuttled in 1994, when Foster's U.S. agency, Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, settled on the "How to Speak Australian" platform that, together with the tagline "Australian for Beer," would define the brand's marketing for years to come

During the 1990s and into the first half of the following decade, Foster's was distributed and marketed in the United States according to a succession of complex corporate arrangements in which its Australian parent company partnered with the Canadian beer maker Molson and the United States' Miller...

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