Creative Director's Choice: Cary Murphy of the Brandon Agency on New Belgium's 'Hemperor'

The Hemperor from New Belgium Brewing

Creative Director’s Choice gives creative directors a chance to highlight the current work they think is the best out in the ad world – the ads and campaigns they believe are making a difference.

This week, Cary Murphy, group creative director at the Brandon Agency, states why the promotion for New Belgium Brewing Company's new HPA from Erich & Kallman is a creative triumph.

Imagine a room packed with sweaty brewmasters, wedged shoulder to shoulder, each yelling about “uniqueness” and desperately trying to be heard over the din — this is the overcrowded craft beer market.

Suddenly, the crowd parts as a figure with regal bearing strides into the room adorned with an oversized crown of hops and flowing green beard made of… hemp leaves? Behold, 'The Hemperor'!

New Belgium Brewing Company spent two years developing a beer made from both hops and hemp. The Hemperor won’t get you high, but the brewers insisted on using real hemp and worked doggedly to perfect the dank and distinctive aroma. During a sampling of it at the office, a coworker walked in and said, “It smells like weed in here!” Mission accomplished.

I started seeing digital ads for The Hemperor, by Erich & Kallman, about a month ago (It officially debuted on 4/20).

The artwork caught my eye immediately. The ornate woodcut style feels important, to be taken seriously, but is contrasted by bizarre flourishes that make you want to explore it further. Seemingly inspired by stoner culture, it reminded me of a scene from the movie Heavy Metal or a Monty Python short.

I also love the name. They created a new category called HPA (riffing on IPA) and have clearly established themselves as the ruler. There can be only one Hemperor, and all copycats must pledge their fealty.

Regulations ruled out a TV campaign, but there are animated digital ads. These low-fi productions feel like art school projects, but somehow that is right on-brand.

Another smart move from New Belgium is aligning itself with the movement to legalize industrial hemp nationwide. The company has partnered with Hemp 4 Victory, an organization dedicated to reintroducing industrial hemp as a leading agricultural crop in America, and is donating $1 to that cause for every barrel of The Hemperor sold.

The campaign has done an excellent job engaging those with a real affinity for hemp, but all of the vast multitudes who enjoy beer are welcome in the Benevolent Kingdom of The Hemperor.

Cary Murphy is Charlotte regional president and group creative director at the Brandon Agency.

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To see the latest creative ads and campaigns, visit The Drum’s Creative Works section. If you or your creative director would like to feature in our Creative Director’s Choice, please contact Kyle O’Brien.

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