Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Meanwhile, down at the Old Bull & Bush ...

I've had the pleasure of working on several alcohol brands throughout my career - Courvoisier, Harvey's sherries, and Lanson champagne, to name a few. The 80s and 90s of the last century were something of a golden age for drinks advertising in the UK. Who could forget this glorious commercial?

Working on alcohol brands today is a different story. Much of the brands' budgets are taken up with promoting what's called 'responsible drinking' which must be something of a conundrum. How do you promote your brand, differentiate it but at the same time warn about not going overboard with the stuff? It's a bit devil you do, devil you don't, and I don't envy people working with this puzzle, to be honest.

If you look at the stats and that alarming rise in the early 2000s, you can see why something had to be done:

And this is what you end up with. It kind of swims or sinks depending on how much cred the artist in question has. And I must admit that I don't have a clue on that front.

There was another time in history when alcohol consumption was at alarming levels in the UK - and by all accounts easily available to children:

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, alcohol consumption levels were even higher than 100 years later. This gave rise to movements promoting 'abstinence' and 'temperance' rather than today's phrase 'responsible drinking.' These movements were usually linked to religions and certainly not to the alcohol producers themselves.

One such was the 'Band of Hope Union' which tried to nip the habit right in the bud. This was a club for children with the aim of preventing them from starting to drink alcohol. One method was to teach youngsters about the effects of alcohol on the human body, and certificates were awarded for 'reporting a lecture on alcohol and the human body' - the one above was awarded to my grandfather while he was in his early teens.

I know my grandfather grew up to enjoy a pint or two as much as the next man, but I wonder how much of the decrease in consumption seen in the pre-WW1 years above was due to the efforts of the Temperance Societies? Behind all the drum-beating and holier-than-thou stuff, they were at least treating teens as intelligent humans with an interest in the latest scientific findings.

Today, the UK alcohol industry is quite different to the one I knew 20 years ago. There are 10,500 less pubs in the UK today than there were in the year 2000.  Here's a recent article with this and other statistics on the Brits and drinking.

I'll end, I think, with a quotation from Hilaire Belloc which makes me slightly misty-eyed:

But when you have lost your Inns, drown your empty selves, for you will have lost the last of England.

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