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Feeling the rhythm: how Speight's has moved from blokey heroes to celebrate modern mateship

Speight’s and its tagline ‘Good on Ya Mate’ are back on screens like you’ve never seen before. It’s worked with DDB to create a contemporary take on its classic ads with dancing men front and centre.

By Erin McKenzie | May 1, 2018 | news

Rolling out across screens on Sunday night alongside Dancing with The Stars—a fitting coincidence—the two-minute spot called 'The Dance' follows the story of two workmates who seem to be teaching each other to dance.

We also meet their wider group of mates, who stay after work to offer unsought critique. Mastering dancing quickly becomes their group project and they approach it with the same laconic attitude you’d expect at Thursday night training for the 3rd-division social footy team.

During the lessons, it becomes clear there is an event the protagonist Simon is working towards, however, it's not revealed until the end when we see him dancing at his wedding. There, Simon surprises his wife with the perfect dance routine while his mates watch proudly from the dancefloor sideline.

Watching the workmates come together to help Simon prepare for his big day sees the reinstatement of the ‘Good on Ya Mate’, a tagline seen in previous Speight’s campaigns.

The tagline encapsulates the values Speight’s stands for, including friendship and generosity, which, like in this instance, has typically been reflected in a narrative of a mate helping out another.

For ‘The Dance’, DDB executive creative director Shane Bradnick says it’s tried to strike a balance of a modern interpretation of Speight’s traditional values of mateship and willingness to go above and beyond.

In explaining this, Bradnick refers back to Speight’s ‘Deerstalkers Ball' campaign from the 90s, in which a man is offered two ball tickets from a woman hoping to be taken as a date. However, the man takes both the tickets, one for him and one for his mate.

While there’s no denying the link between the previous campaigns and today’s, ‘The Dance’ has been created in a new society, when the things men are willing to ask of mates has evolved and striking an emotional chord is key to capturing attention.

With this in mind, Bradnick says it felt like the right time to show a guy teaching another guy to dance.

“If we had a Speight’s brief 50 years ago it would have been this real stoic Kiwi dudes just doing stoic Kiwi dude things. Now, it’s great to see a mainstream beer brand evolve and show culture as it is now while staying true to its values.”

And for Lion's national marketing director, Craig Baldie, moving the brand forward with a contemporary tale was seen as necessary given the way culture has evolved.

“A fresh approach to our core beliefs was the perfect way to showcase mateship, a value that has stuck with Speight's through various ages and stages," says Baldie. "There are some things you can only ask a mate for help with, ‘The Dance’ reimagines an age-old tradition of mates sacrificing for mates through challenging times – we’re very excited to see how Kiwi audiences respond to it.”

Last year, the move to a contemporary society was previewed in a campaign for Speight’s Summit Ultra Low Carb beer. Set to Celine Dion's 'It's All Coming Back to Me Now', the 60-second spot follows the protagonist as he sweats and wobbles on a run, gets outperformed at the gym, chokes down litres of questionable green liquid and poses in front of the mirror to check out the results.

At the time, category manager of beer at Lion Ben Wheeler said it was fitting to the Kiwi psyche of perusing a healthier lifestyle while still being rewarded with a beer.

The campaign contributed to Speight’s estimated ad spend $3.264 million last year. Based on rate card figures from Nielsen Ad Intel, the brand’s estimated spend was $2.334 million in 2016 and $3.138 million in 2015.

On the way up

Speight’s evolution is not limited to how men help each other out, as it's also shifted its attitude towards the North Island.

Again referring back to Speight’s early TVCs, there was a real ‘Pride of the South’ theme and in ‘Southern Man’ spot, it’s particularly evident in subtle digs made about the North Island.

It watches as two southern men ponder over the attraction of a city girl from Auckland, naming a place in the harbour, a Mercedes, a yacht and a box at Eden Park as attractions.

However, they weren’t enough to overcome the fact she doesn’t drink Speight’s.

It’s no surprise the brand was biased towards the south as it was born in Dunedin in 1876.

Baldie explains in its early days, Speight’s wasn’t available outside of Otago. It, like other New Zealand beers at the time, was regional and only those living in the area or travelling would be exposed to it.

It’s since broadened its fan base to the whole country, no doubt aided by its brewing expanding to an Auckland brewery in 2001.

Fast-forward to this year and recent Nielsen Scan Data shows trademark is up 9.1 percent value growth for the quarter ending 1 April 2018.

More specifically it was up 12 percent in the North Island and five percent in the South Island.

And while the Nielsen data shows it's growing in both islands, according to Statistics New Zealand, the country's taste for craft beers is on the rise, while it’s fallen for traditional beers.

Its data shows the volume of available beer above five percent alcohol in the New Zealand market was up 34 percent in 2017.

An alcohol strength above five percent is a common characteristic of craft beer, however, Speight’s Porter and Speight’s Empire Ale are five percent and 5.5 percent respectively.

In contrast, traditional mid-strength and lower strength beer volumes fell in 2017 and overall the total volume of beer available fell 1.2 percent.

Good on ya mate

While the idea of helping a mate out was born back in the 90s for Speights, most recently, it’s played out in the ‘We Will’ campaign, also by DDB, that focused on knocking off unfinished projects.

The last three years have seen it run out with a competition encouraging Kiwis to call on their friends and complete their project. Those who did went into the draw to win a prize.

In keeping with the theme of involving Kiwis in campaigns, ‘The Dance’ will soon see a promotion giving away beer.

Keeping to theme, the giveaway encourages Kiwis to thank their friends for lending a hand, with each box featuring personalised beer bottles thanking the recipients.

When rolled out, those who have mates deserving of beer will be able to create and send the beer boxes through an online platform.

Beyond the TVC

As well as moving values into today’s society with a more emotional and contemporary story, digital advancements have also seen an evolution of Speight’s media mix and the TVC is now supported by six-second bumper ads for online.

Unlike the hero piece that can have two minutes for a story to unfold, the bumpers need to be instantly gratifying and the trend of their inclusion in the mix was addressed when director Steve Ayson pointed out to the team he now spends his life doing “two minuters and six seconders”.

Already this year we’ve seen the strategy used in Mercury’s new electric vehicle campaign, by FCB, with the six-second bumpers being used to further the story of Ron, Malcom and their classic yellow car beyond the hero 90-second spot.

As well as TVC and online, ‘The Dance’ has also been rolled out in film and out of home.

An authentic touch

For Speight’s ‘The Dance’, the shorter bumper ads will also provide an opportunity for the story to be furthered and characters have more time to be seen.

While there’s minimal dialogue, each plays an integral part in giving the campaign an authentic feel and Bradnick credits Ayson’s choice of actor for each character.

He explains that while some may have gone down the track of making all the workmates look the same, the mixed group is a more accurate representation of a real workplace.

Again, in the final wedding scene, Bradnick says the odd collection of people is true to a New Zealand wedding where there are guests from different families and friend circles.

“A lot of advertising these days feels manufactured and there’s an authenticity with these guys so you can believe the story.”

Baldie supports the claim, recalling his experience while the campaign was in production and the magic on set.

“I can remember sitting in a little tent when we were filming night after night and seeing what was playing out, I knew there was magic in the story that Rory [McKechnie] and Shane created and the characters bringing that to life,” he says.

“I was sitting there going ‘I’m so excited because there’s magic here, I just desperately hope we can take it, bottle it, and deliver it in a piece of work',” and if his love of the piece is anything to go by, that’s certainly been achieved.

He thinks it’s the best Speight's ad yet, and jests that it’s up to DDB to outdo it next time.

Client:
National Marketing Director: Craig Baldie
Category Marketing & Sponsorship Director – Beer: Ben Wheeler
Marketing Manager Mainstream Beer: Jane Dempsey
Brand Manager Mainstream Beer: Geoff Kidd
Assistant Brand Manager Mainstream Beer: Gen Brown

Agency:
Chief Creative Officer: Damon Stapleton
Executive Creative Director: Shane Bradnick
Creative Director: Rory McKechnie
Art Director: Zac Lancaster
Senior Account Director: Jennifer Travers
Account Manager: Michael Doolan
Executive Planning Director: Lucinda Sherborne
Executive Producer: Judy Thompson
Senior Agency Producer: Samantha Royal

Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Executive Producer: Fiona King
Producer: Larisa Tiffin
Director: Steve Ayson
DOP: Lachlan Milne
Offline Editor: Simon Price
Grade: Trish Cahill

Post Production Company: Perceptual Engineering
Soundtrack/composer/Music: Jonathan Mihaljevich, Franklin Road

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