On the beer gogglebox

Marketers realise that we are at our most relaxed when we’re eating, drinking and socialising, and have set about designing PoP material to exploit our susceptibility. It ranges from hi-tech plasma screens to ads on pint pots

The days when marketing in pubs was limited to beer mats, peanut dispensers and “Same again, sir?” are long gone. As the off-trade sector has become fragmented, and different pubs and bars have emerged to cater for different social classes and age groups, new types of point-of-purchase (PoP) promotions have moved in to take advantage of these well-defined markets.

Equally, the restaurant industry is aware of the potential of a well-timed PoP campaign, particularly one targeting children. With competition in the sector ferocious, promotions are crucial not only for maintaining market share but also for defining the brand.

In the right spirit

Ellert Field Marketing business development director Gary Cook, a former Seagram on-trade channel director, says increasing pains are being taken to tailor bar and restaurant PoP campaigns: “The types of outlets consumers visit and the reasons they are attracted to different types of promotion are being studied carefully. Advances in technology mean promotions in these places are now very sophisticated.”

One of the most striking examples of this is the use of plasma screens in bars and restaurants. These flat, widescreen TVs are used by bars to highlight promotions and often carry third-party advertising. The screens are particularly popular in trendy bars and clubs and as such are good at targeting sought-after 18- to 24-year-old drinkers.

Research conducted by 2cv for Translucis, which installs the screens and beams broadcasts to them via satellite, showed that 22 per cent of people who saw an ad on a screen subsequently discussed it with friends. Translucis marketing director Sue Aitken says: “What’s really important in this medium is that advertising is visually innovative.”

Yates Group has 50 42-inch screens in its Yates’s bars across the country and plans to install the screens in 130 bars over the next five years as part of its refurbishment programme.

Although the screens come from Translucis, Yates Group has created its own programming and organises ads and promotions. Clients include drinks companies such as Southern Comfort, but non-related companies such as financial services company Virgin One also advertise.

Yates Group marketing controller Robert Thompson says the trick is to position the screens properly. “We made the decision to put the screens behind the bar and not to use audio, so that they are not too intrusive. This allows consumers to dictate how much they interact with them. People often go to the bar, not sure what they want to drink. When the screen advertises a drink it can help them decide.”

He adds: “It’s a cost-effective and direct route because you’re advertising in a social environment.”

Others are taking the concept a step further and making the experience interactive. Consultancy Rocket Science is working with touch-screen kiosk distributor Sports Mission to develop games kiosks which double as PoP outlets.

Users will be asked to enter details about themselves, such as their age, gender and favourite football team. These details can be used to tailor prizes and promotions to individual users, related either to pub products or products from other companies.

Rocket Science chief executive Alan Timothy says: “I don’t believe PoP in pubs has come very far yet. With widescreen TVs things are starting to improve, but most promotions remain static and have no link to promotions outside the pub. The next generation of promotions in this sector needs to be interactive and to form part of a major electronic customer relationship management (CRM) programme.”

Who pays the pint-puller

If taking advantage of new technologies cannot get your message across as strongly as you would like, why not go the whole hog and sponsor a pub? Paramount Comedy Channel wanted to do something different to attract viewers and advertisers to the channel, so it sponsored London pub The Marquis of Granby for three weeks in December.

The visual aspect of the sponsorship involved the placing of external banners and internal PoP posters and giveaways. The pub’s owner, Bass Brewers, is now exploring the possibility of sponsorship for other pubs.

Paramount Comedy Channel marketing director Chris Hancox says the deal was brokered directly with the pub, which is frequented by Paramount employees: “We meet a lot of media people there and we wanted to give something back to them. It also sums up the brand values of the channel because it was all about having a laugh.”

He adds: “Hand on heart I couldn’t say we got anything directly out of the deal, but we did persuade contacts to come to the pub who normally wouldn’t, and the pub did well out of it too.”

We just want a quiet drink

Sometimes, though, a more subtle approach is needed. This is either because the customers you are targeting are exceptionally discerning or because the landlord or owner of the venue wants to create a certain atmosphere, which would be spoilt by advertising. Wine bars are a particularly good example of this.

Mike Hughes, commercial director of field marketing company CPM, says his client Guinness UDV is launching a low-key marketing initiative in the summer. Smartly dressed salespeople will enter selected bars – with the owner’s approval – and ask customers if they would like to try a Guinness brand from the bar (the particular brand is a commercial secret as yet).

Hughes says companies such as Guinness are now trying to identify key outlets, as opposed to running blanket campaigns: “Companies have become a lot smarter than they were five or six years ago. What’s driving them now is value for money. They spend a lot of time identifying key outlets and the process is quite scientific.”

Another innovative and subtle approach is to advertise on the bottom of beer glasses. Companies such as PintAds will brand and distribute glasses and ensure they are displayed when they should be.

The first company to take out a campaign with PintAds was the Association of Independent Trust Companies. The campaign was launched last year in London pubs, particularly those in the City, to target affluent Londoners who want to invest their savings.

AITC marketing manager Simon Arthur says: “I don’t think anyone who had a pint in these pint glasses went out and bought an investment trust as a result of it, but it was a bit of fun.

“The best thing was that the glasses have an incredibly long life. The campaign was booked for two months, but a year later the glasses are still in use. The problem is that you can’t fit much onto the bottom of a glass, so it’s not good for product-specific branding. But we had a TV campaign running at the time and creatively it did fit with the TV work.”

No need for paper umbrellas

Joshua Spanier, strategic planner for media buyer Zenith Media – which booked the campaign for AITC – argues that ideas such as beer-glass advertising have a specific role to play.

He says: “This kind of thing only works if it’s part of a large campaign or if it ‘fits’ creatively with a beer glass. Otherwise all you’re doing is putting an ad where there wasn’t one before. People nowadays are pretty unshockable and you may just end up annoying them.”

Restaurant and takeaway PoP promotions are heavily skewed towards tie-ins with other companies’ brands. Last October, for instance, Burger King launched a World Wrestling Federation children’s meal, supported by branding around its children’s play areas. In November, Little Chef restaurants launched a similar promotion with cartoon characters the Rugrats. A free Rugrats toy was given away with every &£3.49 children’s meal.

Little Chef marketing manager Ben Forbes says promotions can have a major impact on sales. A three-month Thunderbirds promotion doubled year-on-year sales of children’s meals during Easter week last year and increased restaurant sales by 15 per cent overall.

He says: “You have to choose a tie-in which has high exposure. Our timing [of the Thunderbirds promotion] was critical, because the Thunderbirds programme had just been on TV. Parents were also attracted to it because the toys are collectible – for us that’s important because it’s the parents who drive to our restaurants.”

Forbes says that companies are now realising the advantages promotions can have for their businesses. He says: “Companies are realising that, rather than just making some quick money out of a promotion, they can use it to promote their product and help long-term growth.”

As technology develops, and the need to find new ways of attracting consumers’ attention grows, clients are waking up to the fact that restaurants and bars are relatively untapped areas in terms of marketing potential.

It’s not just drinks companies which are finding this. A range of sectors, from travel agents to financial services companies, are taking the opportunity to sell to people as they eat and drink. The planning involved is complex and must ensure that the images and promotions used are right for the different mixture of customers in each outlet. Get the message and the medium right, however, and companies are ideally placed to communicate their brands just at the time when consumers are at their most relaxed and receptive.

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