Iconic Ads: Stella Artois – Reassuringly Expensive

The perceived negative of the high price of Stella Artois was used as a big advantage to position it at the premium end.

Stella Artois was a Belgian lager that had been around since 1336. It was initially a limited edition beer for the Christmas season, but due to its popularity, it was brought back the following season, then the next, until it was released as an all-season beer not long after. The name Stella Artois came from the Latin “star” and the name of the first brewer, Sebastian Artois. It prided itself on being made from the finest and freshest ingredients referred to as the Saaz Hop.

Stella Artois began to gain traction in the UK market in 1982 due to Frank Lowe.

In the 1970s, Collett Dickinson Pearce worked on the advertising for Stella Artois, developing print advertisements like “My shout, he whispered.” Lowe left Collett Dickinson Pearce in 1981 to start his advertising agency, taking the Stella Artois account with him.

In 1982, Lowe launched a campaign, which aimed to turn a significant negative for the brand (higher prices due to increased duty on high-alcohol content beverages in the UK) into a positive by assuring customers that the premium lager was better than cheaper brands because it was more expensive.

Lowe had earlier briefed the young copywriter Geoffrey Seymour about the beer. He told him – ‘it’s made from female Czechoslovakian hops, uses Belgian barley and takes twice as long to mature as other beers, that’s why it costs more.” Seymour came up with the slogan “reassuringly expensive”, a term which went from print ads to the lager’s TV commercials and lasted for more than 20 years. “It was a great oxymoron,” said Lowe. “The client at first said we can’t highlight the fact it’s expensive. I said ‘the public will love it’ and they did.”

Seymour had no idea he’d come up with it at first. Frank Lowe drew the line from a piece of body copy Geoff had written for a Stella print advertisement. Unfortunately, this coincidental discovery has resulted in another misidentification of Geoff Seymour. He wasn’t the one who started the Stella Artois campaign, but he was the one who finished it. David Watkinson and Bob Isherwood of Collett, Dickenson and Pearce are credited with conceiving the campaign and its approach eight years prior.

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