Irn Bru hits the beach: an interview with the brand's marketing team

The Drum talks to Jonathan Kemp, commercial director for Irn Bru and Adrian Troy head of marketing for AG Barr about the new Irn Bru campaign.

Just minutes before, a seaside cut out has unexpectedly arrived at The Drum’s offices to tease the latest TV campaign.

Few advert screenings are quite like ones for Irn Bru, although this year’s surroundings are more refined than usual, taking place in a five star hotel in Glasgow’s west end.

The Drum is meeting Jonathan Kemp, commercial director (pictured left) for Irn Bru and Adrian Troy head of marketing (pictured right) for AG Barr to watch the new advert.

Walking into the main room to meet the two, they are surrounded by the same beach scene cut outs, as well as some beach towels and numerous bottles of the orange stuff.

Following a short chat in which they reveal that the campaign will use animation once again (last year’s 'Pied Piper' campaign included both live action and animated characters, while arguably the brand’s most memorable advert for the last decade, 'Snowman', was completely hand drawn.)

They’re giving little away however, and it is actually a relief to see the campaign having waited a good while in anticipation while also sitting in a deck chair inside a wooden panelled room that was clearly a study back in the day – with Irn Bru branded lilos and beach balls strewn around for good measure.

The first time The Drum watches the advert, it finds itself enjoying it – but there’s so much going on that it takes a second viewing before it knows fully what it's just witnessed. The general concept is a very clever idea, and once again The Leith Agency will take plaudits for a job well done for its longest standing client.

Comparisons can be drawn with 'Snowman' in that it clearly attempts to celebrate the season in which it will run – in this case the Scottish summer.

“It’s an advert that people can enjoy time and time again,” Kemp states, when asked what the intention was behind the idea. He however distances the notion that it will be used repeatedly over the years in the same way that Snowman has been.

“The difference with Christmas is that you know when it’s going to come. The difference with the Scottish summer is that you’re never sure when it’s going to come, we might even have already had it in fact. That’s the way it goes. So it’s slightly different to Christmas where you have a set time frame and you’ve got to put out your ad because you know when people are going to be getting ready for Christmas. With the summer it’s a much longer period of time.”

Both Kemp and Troy state the this campaign will celebrate ‘the magic of the Scottish summer’, which is not entirely to do with sunshine and beer gardens, but more mud and midgies, beginning on the ‘idyllic’ beach of Saltcoats.

“There’s something that is very real and down-to-earth about Irn Bru. That’s what it is and what drinkers like about it. It’s not trying to be fancy or modern. It’s a very straight brand and hopefully that’s what people recognise,” comments Troy before the pair are asked what about the brand lends itself so well to animation within its campaigns.

“We don’t set out to use animation as such. We start out with the ideas and talk about how it will work. So there’s no intent behind animation per se, it’s just seems to be that that has been the vehicle of the best ideas, or some of the best ideas that we’ve had over the last few years. “

Kemp continues: “If you were to go back, High School Musical wasn’t animated, Goth wasn’t animated, If wasn’t animated. So there are three where we haven’t used animation and then last year you have The Pied Piper, The Snowman and this. So we switch between that.”

The new campaign, beginning on 15 April, will also roll out in-store, on bus wraps and on-pack support materials, but it is the social media activity that will aim to take brand interaction to a whole new level, as the company aims for consumers to create their own versions of the TV advert, using images of themselves and friends within the campaign, the first time that the brand has endeavored to allow its fans to do so.

“This just lends itself to social media so well,” Troy says. “A big part of this year’s plan is what we call ‘Star in the ad’ which is something we will run on Facebook and also our website, which offers people the opportunity to upload their own photographs with one of their mates. The technology will then take over and they can animate their faces and appear throughout the advert,” says Troy who adds that the official Facebook page will also feature a lot of activity.

Irn Bru is a brand that is ingrained within the psyche of the Scottish, but in England it is still very much developing and growing awareness. As a result, an altered version of this advert will run, with more of an emphasis placed on trial engagement.

When asked about the growth of the brand into England, Kemp states that “It’s going very well and we’re very pleased with the progress that we’re making in England.”

As for the importance of the brand to it native country, Kemp is clear in stating his believe that it is ‘hugely important’ to Scotland.

“I don’t believe there’s anybody alive in Scotland who was around when Irn Bru was launched. It was launched in 1901 to it’s 110 years old. It has outlived everybody who was around when it was born. Certainly from my perspective and Adrian’s perspective, it’s a huge responsibility that you feel looking after this brand that you know one day you’re going to pass onto someone else. You’ll always have a campaign that they’ll remember best, be it ‘Scotland’s other national drink’, ‘Made in Scotland from girders’, through to the adverts from the last 10 years. Everyone will have a favourite.”

And with that The Drum's time discussing Irn Bru is done and it was time to leave in another Irn Bru wrapped taxi, driven by a different orange Hawaiian shirt wearing driver.

The Drum gets the feeling the company enjoys promoting this product somehow.

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.