AB InBev-owned brewery CUB yesterday celebrated the ‘50th’ anniversary of the classic VB anthem and in celebrating its heritage managed to mangle its own history. Again.
In February 1968, the iconic “a hard-earned thirst needs a big cold beer” ad first ran in Melbourne promoting Victoria Bitter. However, the VB campaign was an extension of an already successful campaign that had been running for northern stablemate Bulimba Gold Top in Brisbane for four years.
When asked about the origins of the Victorian campaign, a CUB spokesperson dismissed it’s own heritage brand’s earlier campaign.
“Great question, and a keen eye for detail BrewsNews – we salute your research team. We tried the concept with Bulimba more than 50 years ago,” the spokesperson said.
“It didn’t quite work, so it was ripped apart, put back together and perfected for VB, becoming the iconic ad launched in 1968 – and a true legend!”
Australian brewery historian Michael Bannenberg, who spent three decades working on the CUB account as Art Director at George Patterson, disputes that version of history.
“The concept written by Bruce Jarrett for the Bulimba Campaign was one of the most successful beer campaigns in the Queensland marketplace,” Bannenberg said.
“It was so successful it was used with great acclaim in different marketplaces in Victoria.
“CUB has forgotten how parochial the brewing industry was in the mid sixties. Both campaigns were running at the same time.”
The nearly identical “Big, big beer” campaign for Bulimba Gold Top commenced in 1965. In a 1996 account of the history of the campaign the late Geoff Seebeck, who worked for ad agency George Patterson that created the campaign, recalled that it was immediately successful.
“Within a couple of weeks Gold Top was outselling XXXX, the track was being played free of charge on jukeboxes in pubs and clubs. It had taken over Brisbane,” he wrote.
Seebeck recounted that when George Patterson Melbourne was appointed to the CUB account for Victoria in 1967, it identified that the product and consumer profiles for VB exactly matched those for Bulimba Gold Top in Queensland.
“Blue collar, honest toil and reward for a hard day’s work. They had the perfect advertising campaign and strategy in the can. All they had to do was change the name!” Seebeck wrote.
“So in 1967 Bruce Jarrett wrote a pool of TV and radio spots for VB based on the work he’d already done for Bulimba Gold.”
CUB, which makes much of treasuring its heritage, has a history of getting its own history wrong.
The brewery spent over a decade – and tens of millions of dollars – recounting a history of its premium flagship Crown Lager that it was later forced to acknowledge was almost completely incorrect. The errors included the claim that the Queen had visited the Abbotsford Brewery. She didn’t.
When the error was pointed out the then Marketing Manager, Carlton Group, Vincent Ruiu, said these errors had just been passed down from marketing team to marketing team with no-one stopping to research the history.
“I have seen that video of the Queen supposedly in our brewery for 15 years… and I just believed forever and a day that it was right. It’s clearly not and we will take it down and banish it from the history,” Vincent said in 2012.
The CUB spokesman did not yesterday outline what research had been undertaken in claiming the Gold Top campaign ‘didn’t quite work’.
CUB yesterday celebrated the 50th anniversary of VB’s anthem at its Carlton Brewhouse in Abbotsford ,calling on the public to submit their own rendition of the VB anthem and the tune behind it.
Entries can be submitted via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the #VB50yearsofcheers hashtag, full details.
Geoff Seeback’s full recollections about the creation of the iconic Bulimba Gold Top / VB campaign can be read here.