The beer that doesn’t have beer in it: FCB gives water a makeover in new HPA campaign

Last year, FCB introduced the line ‘No More Beersies’ to the Kiwi vernacular via its ‘Say Yeah, Nah’ campaign for the Health Promotion Agency (HPA), and it became a ubiquitous catchphrase in weekly conversations.

Now, just over a year later, the agency has carried the beersies line into a follow-on campaign that borrows from the tropes of beer advertising to reinvent the humble glass of water.       

In each of the clips, the pouring of a glass of water is accompanied by the stereotypically deep voice of a beer advert narrator, who over 30 tongue-in-cheek seconds draws attention to the crisp goodness of a simple glass of H2O.

Three of the clips are currently running on television, while there are also an additional trio that have been posted to YouTube (and Not Beersies also has its own Facebook page).  
FCB’s executive creative director Regan Grafton says that it wasn’t expensive to make the clips, meaning the team had the freedom to develop a series rather than just a single spot.

“Fundamentally, the message is the same in each,” says Grafton, “but there’s just so much rich territory in beer advertising and the results were hilarious.”

The message relayed in the new campaign is that that bar patrons shouldn’t feel ashamed about opting for a glass of water instead of a beer.

“It’s about being in partnership with the beer industry,” says Grafton. “This isn’t an anti-drinking campaign; it’s a moderation campaign. We’re not trying to be the fun police.” 

The campaign has been welcomed by Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who in an official statement posted to the HPA website said that binge drinking continues to be a serious social problem. 

“Alcohol moderation campaigns like Not Beersies aim to provide people with alternatives that help moderate their alcohol intake,” says Coleman. “Not Beersies is a positive way to moderate alcohol intake by providing people with something they can do when they refuse a drink.”

In marketing, moderation campaigns tend to be quite tricky, in the sense that they require a very different approach from that which is used in usual commercial projects.

Usually, marketing is predominantly employed to sell more products. As Jeremy Bullmore explained in his essay titled ‘Marketing’s greatest challenge’: 

“Marketing departments have marketing budgets and marketing targets. Those targets are invariably about growth: more volume, more share of market, more profit or more of all three; but always more. Huge sums of money are directed at persuading more people to consume more quantities of more things more often. That’s marketing. No annual marketing plan in history has committed its budget to achieving less of everything. Marketing is all about more.”

But PSAs that implore consumers to gamble less, drive slower or drink fewer alcoholic beverages demand the exact opposite approach. 

However, in much the same way that corporate juggernauts allocate budgets to meet certain targets, so too do government bodies delineate objectives that need to be addressed. 

And in 2012, the organisation then known as Alcohol Advisory Council (which was absorbed by the HPA) approached FCB with a brief that pinpointed binge drinking as a key area of concern. Data showed that one in four adults engaged in binge drinking, and that one in two adults knew someone they believed needed to change their drinking. 
While having a few too many was generally considered harmless, a 2005/2006 report showed that binge drinking tallied up a tab of $4.9 billion per year in social costs. And for a country with a GDP under $200 billion a year, this was placing unnecessary—and avoidable—strain on the New Zealand economy.         

Rather than taking the standard PSA approach of chastising viewers for bad behaviour, FCB launched the ‘Say Yeah, Nah’ campaign, which showed New Zealanders it’s okay to say ‘yeah’ to a good time and ‘nah’ to needing alcohol to have it.   

But the response to the campaign wasn’t unanimously positive. 

Some members of the Reddit community said that the campaign left them slightly confused, because it seemed more akin to a beer commercial than a moderate drinking PSA.  

However, FCB’s group account director Jane Wardlaw says that these criticisms were countered by the information gathered during campaign tracking that FCB ran.

“The campaign was tracked and after the last round of tracking: 57 percent of people in the binge drinking target audience said the message was relevant to them and this was higher for Maori (72 percent) and Pacific (70 percent); 54 percent of the target audience reported the ad helped them take some kind of action to moderate their drinking or the drinking of others; and, of the binge drinkers who saw the ad, over a quarter 27 percent percent said that the campaign had helped them to start drinking less.”

Wardlaw also points out that these results saw the campaign awarded with two golds, a silver and bronze at the Effie Awards, which she says proves that “it isn’t just agency fluff” and that the campaign was in fact effective. 

On a more anecdotal level, Grafton also points out that the ‘No More Beersies’ tagline has become associated with stupid or undesirable behaviour in popular culture. 

Guy Williams—whose disembodied head later joined the ‘Say Yeah, Nah’ campaign—also made a similar point in an interview with StopPress last year. 

“Every time someone spills a drink in a comedy club, the comedian will steal the ‘no more beersies for you’ line from the advertisers and it will be the biggest laugh of the night,” said Williams.

While humorous, the ‘no more beersies’ line is given negative connotations that associate embarrassing behaviour with drinking too much alcohol. The main point here is that having a pint is alright, but drinking to the stage when involuntary spills start occurring might not be such a good idea.  

And in its new campaign, FCB takes this approach one step further by making the point that Kiwis don’t have to feel ashamed about choosing to have a glass of water at the bar. And given the harm the harm caused by drinking too much, it seems as though FCB is moving the shame in the right direction through its continued work for the HPA.  


Health Promotion Agency
•    Clive Nelson – Chief executive 
•    Kathy Compton – Senior account lead
•    Wendy Billingsley – Manager, programme marketing and communications 
•    Jane Wardlaw – Group account director 
•    Jess Sheffield – Senior account manager 
•    Brian van den Hurk – Managing director 
•    Carl Sarney – Planner 
•    Regan Grafton – Executive creative director
•    Kelly Lovelock – Senior creative lead
•    Hywel James – Senior writer 
•    Pip Mayne – Head of content 
•    Marijana Hart – Content producer 
•    Roxane Vosper – Media manager  
•    Daniel Roberts – Media planner/buyer
•    Kate Grigg – Digital director 
•    Lucy Leckie – Senior digital planner/buyer 
•    Kimberly Kastelan – Account director (PR, activation & social media)
•    Alisha Thomas – Account manager (PR, activation & social media)
•    Georgia Boyce – Account executive (PR, activation & social media)
•    Nick Smith – Head of craft
•    Nick McFarlane – Senior designer 
•    Simon Pengelly – Group studio manager  
•    Scott Kelly – Senior Mac/3D artist
•    Haydn Thomsen – Head of digital production 
•    Nick Pengelly – Senior interactive producer 
•    Eric Thompson – Production director
•    Reuben Boey – Motion Graphics Designer

Production Company: Robbers Dog
·         Director – Chris Dudman
·         Executive Producer – Mark Foster
·         Producer – Anna Stuart
·         DOP – Andrew Stroud
·         Editor – Tim Mauger
·         Grade – Pete Ritchie – Blockhead
·         Online – Nigel Mortimer – Blockhead
Audio post: Liquid Studios
·    Engineer – Craig Matushka
·    Composer – 3 x tracks – Peter van der Fluit
·    80’s: ‘Not Beer’, ‘The Secret’
·    Superhero: ‘Since When’
·    Rock: ‘No Rules’
·    Producer –  Sarah Yetton
Stills:  Reload
·         Photographer – Stephen Langdon
·         Producer – Carla Rotondo

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