– 10 July 2013

Amstel Lager’s main brand differentiator has been the promise that it is “slow-brewed”, which allegedly produces a better tasting product. This beer has always been a little more expensive than the other mainstream brands, and has traditionally occupied a prestige space that is somewhere between the imported and the local brands.

The concept of taking time to achieve true quality has been re-interpreted in the latest campaign, which tells realistic life stories of ordinary people who have to pay their dues to achieve their goals.

Humans are storytelling animals: telling a story has been proven to be the best way to engage an audience, be it in a presentation, a speech or a commercial. This campaign has used that to draw in its audience and make a very definite impression.

The first in the series told the story of a boxer who failed at first, but through mentoring and hard work he achieved his dream of being a champion.

The second ad recounts he tale of a young man, Simphiwe Nzima, who dreams of being a chef. He inveigles his way into a job as a dishwasher in a top restaurant. While he works, he watches how the kitchen operates, and learns.

When the chef catches Simphiwe trying his hand at chopping vegetables during the lunch break, he gets given a chance as an apprentice… and so his journey begins.

The commentary is done in a first-person narrative style – with a twist. First we hear his voice in isiZulu, but it is then supplanted by an English translation. This dual narrative continues throughout: It’s a clever way of lending authenticity to the copy.

The treatment and style of both “The Boxer” and “The Chef” is identical. Ad agency OwenKessel kept the same team, led by director Greg Gray of Velocity Films, with ace cinematographer Paul Gilpin creating a beautiful, moody atmosphere.

ad of the week

The colour grade is very desaturated, with just a few colours being allowed to key through, almost like spot-colours. In this way, the eye is drawn in to certain elements, like the ingredients, and of course the distinctive green of the Amstel Lager bottles which the protagonists are seen drinking from (always outside the context of work).

Simphiwe is very subtly seen to age throughout the story: he starts off clean-shaven, and by the end he has a full beard. In fact, on repeated viewing, you’ll notice that in the opening shot, where he starts to tell his story, it is the “old” Simphiwe loading vegetables into a smart 4×4, so in fact the whole story is told in flashback: a very smart and engaging device.

Apart from the narration and spots of sound—such as snatches of dialogue, relevant sound effects—there is a driving musical soundtrack, courtesy of Asaf Avidon and the Mojos, called “One Day/Reckoning Song”, which has apparently been an international YouTube hit. The lyrics tie in with the message, the repeated “one day” speaks to Simphiwe’s dedication and tenacity, as he builds himself up to the “one day” that he opens his own restaurant.

As in “The Boxer”, the message is clear and simple, tying in to the product. As Diederik Vos, Marketing Manager for Amstel at Brandhouse Beverages (Pty) Ltd says, “He is taking his time to learn the tricks of the trade, that will help him become a great chef. And it’s not easy. Just like there are no shortcuts or quick fixes to brewing a good beer. That’s how the story of Simphiwe and Amstel are really connected – they both take their time to achieve true quality.”

The local beer market has become crowded in recent years by the proliferation of craft beers: small brands that once were outliers but have now come to occupy the same prestige space as Amstel Lager; to the point that they are now available in restaurants. In this commercial, Amstel Lager has very cleverly consolidated its position in this end of the market, recapturing the hearts and minds of its target market with a stylish, engaging campaign.

Watch the 130” commercial at:
Watch the 60” commercial at:
Watch the 30” commercial at: