Why Amstel cast Jeff Bridges in a surreal £7m push months after Stella's 'Dude' ad

Heineken-owned Amstel is extolling the virtues of togetherness in a new ad campaign starring Jeff 'The Dude' Bridges as one of canal-strewn Amsterdam's many bridges. But it is not the first beer ad the famous actor has starred in this year.

Bridges back in January dusted off his Big Lebowski 'Dude' cardigan for Stella Artois in a US Super Bowl ad alongside Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex And The City icon Carrie Bradshaw. The pair changed up their favourite drinks, a White Russian, and a Cosmo, to adopt Stella. The campaign teased a sequel for both franchises but then revealed itself as an ad.

Now, Bridges is talking up looks intent on talking up his love of beer, this time for Amstel in the UK. Nic Casby, brand director at Heineken, said the partnership with took almost a year to deliver.

Working with Adam&Eve/DDB, Amstel created only its second TV ad for the UK market, an indicator that it is leaning into the platform to conduct some serious brand-building. A horizon-filling Bridges, almost god-like in appearance, is the medium Amstel is using to achieve this.

Casby said: "We'd been talking to him for a while, he was the right guy to land the message we wanted." For Casby, there is little danger that Stella and Amstel's campaigns will be confused.

Amstel's multi-million-pound campaign has, he said: "A different message for a different audience." Casby said his marketing team was aware of Bridges' Super Bowl commitments but worked through it.

"The [Stella] ad might have been seen by many marketers but it wasn't massively seen by consumers in the UK. The path was clear to land our message and do a long-term piece with Jeff."

"Stella was a one-off hit and we are hopefully entering an official relationship."

In the spot, Bridges cultivates the idea of togetherness, highlighting Amstel as a brand that brings people together.

The campaign concept was fairly anchored to securing the star. Casby listed off a few other famous people named Bridges, but it became clear that for the concept to work it had to be the Jeff Bridges. "We tested him with an audience and he brought the gravitas, wisdom and charm."

"We then brought in Jeff as a way of executing that. People love the giant Bridges in the water concept; but it also that [the ad] isn't overly preachy."

It comes as Danish beer Carlsberg looks to distance itself from its brand reputation and old flavour in a bold UK campaign that saw its staff reading out tweets comparing its beer to 'piss'. This was all in aid of a new Pilsner launch and a push towards premium. According to Casby, the premium side of the market is a decent place to reside right now.

He said: "If you look at the mainstream market, Carlsberg has probably been worse affected than other brands. The mainstream is still the biggest part of the market but it is in a bit of decline," noting that brands like Fosters and Carling were still shifting millions of pints a day.

In the 12 months to August 2018, Carling shifted 3m hectoliters of beer. It was down 3.6% year on year. Fosters was down 6.6% in a year to under 2m hectolitres. Carlsberg was the third best-seller recording 1.19m hectoliters - although from a lower base it saw a precipitous 13.1% drop in sales. There is a clear drop in the mass market that brands must account for.

"We see Amstel as a premium entry and that part of the market really is buoyant. We are quite happy with where things sit. We feel Amstel will benefit from continued premiumisation trend. People still want a couple of beers but don't want the after-effects of a 5% beer."

He concluded that the campaign and relationship will continue with the following objectives. "We do acknowledge that we have to get the brand a bit more salient and visible and get consumers aware of us in this competitive market."

The ad will run on TV, cinema, video-on-demand, and digital channels. The commercial will also be brought to life through Amstel’s biggest ever in-store activation. PR and social work will also figure in this summer. Casby did not confirm whether there would be any experiential takeovers of bridges as part of that takeover.

The brand is happy to lean on celeb power to draw people to its brew. In the US, Heineken 0.0 enlisted some stars from the comedy The Office to make 'bring your beer to work' a thing now more people are drinking non-alcoholic beers than ever before.

Vote for this campaign in The Drum's Creative Works here.

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