The Magazine's review of advertising
THE PRODUCT: Magners cider
Wouldn't you love to share a drink with these folk?
THE BRIEF: To overturn the scuzzy image of cider with a fresh, new brand that is drunk over ice.
THE SCHTICK: A flying trip through deserted sun-glazed orchards to a waterside beer garden where good, honest, earthy - yet stylish - friends enjoy a close-of-day drink.
THE BREAKDOWN: Long before alcopops were even a glint in the eye of brewing multinationals, there was cider. Sweet and fizzy, it could almost pass for a soft drink, but for the alcoholic kick.
For many of the cider faithful, that was the point - a halfway house between the sticky, carbonated drinks of childhood and a more dangerous and mature beverage: beer.
Cider's other traditional audience was heavy drinkers. Its ability to withstand high alcohol content while still tasting reasonably palatable guaranteed it a fan base among seriously hardened boozers.
Of course, there were always sufficient numbers of respectable cider drinkers, and cider varieties, to ensure the drink wasn't simply relegated from the supermarket shelves to those of hardware stores.
But as one BBC radio presenter noted recently, in many eyes, cider was a drink for teenagers and tramps.
Big shot: Magners over ice, a key message of the ad
Now though the talk is of a revival in the fortunes of this apple-based brew. Last week, the makers of Britain's biggest cider brand, Bulmers, announced a 40% increase in cider sales over the past two years.
"Cider," says the Guardian, "is the new chardonnay."
In the wake of the Bulmers results, several commentators identified one brand, Magners, above all others as spawning this cider recovery.
Until three years ago, Magners Original Irish Cider was unknown in these shores. This summer, the brand has been hard to ignore, as the latest round of advertising in its £20m promotional campaign, hits home.
Sunshine over ice
The TV ad has particularly caught the attention, enjoying prime-time exposure during the World Cup, and throughout July and August.
The 30-second ad starts with an aerial view of an apple orchard, nestling in a richly verdant valley under a turquoise sky. The camera sweeps down at speed into the rows of trees, dotted with red apples, and slows before tilting up to catch the glinting sun.
It pans past an empty hammock (this is a deserted orchard), then fades to a low bench where boots have evidently just been discarded. The prominent soundtrack - Donovan's 1965 hit Sunshine Superman - enhances the slightly trippy aura.
Irish orchards... well, New Zealand actually
The shot then morphs to the terrace of a waterside bar where a small group of casually-dressed 30-somethings are chatting as the sun sets behind them.
The voiceover - a rich Irish burr - has been telling us how "At Magners... this has always been the perfect time... to put everything... on ice."
The last word coincides with a close-up shot of cider being poured over ice.
In marketing lingo, ice is Magners' USP - unique selling point. Just as some years ago a certain brand of South American beer convinced us to stuff wedges of lime in the bottle neck before drinking, so Magners will have us believe that it should only be drunk over ice.
"It's a simple ad. There's nothing clever about it, no twist. Just a relaxed feel," says Maurice Breen, Magners' marketing manager. "It does the basics well and that's what we're getting at with the product - Magners' craft, authenticity, traditional methods of production."
The whole affair is suffused in a tender, warm Irishness - an aspect Magners also pushes when talking about its orchards in County Tipperary.
Ahh, the easy life
But anyone familiar with the Irish climate might struggle to recognise those blue skies and almost Mediterranean landscape from the start of the ad. Mr Breen admits, that for "seasonal reasons", the ad was shot in New Zealand, although "to replicate our orchards in Ireland".
The ad is part in a series of seasonally-based promotions designed to tap into what Mr Breen says are the drinks' natural associations. Just as one would drink fruit juice over ice, so they should Magners, he says.
The subtext is that in an era when healthy eating is starting to loom large, even alcohol, in the form of cider, can look wholesome.
Has it succeeded? Mr Breen believes so, saying it has achieved its three objectives: to introduce the brand; to re-position cider as a drink for young upwardly-mobiles; and to get the ice message across.
Caroline Nodder, editor of the Publican - a paper for the licensing trade - takes her hat off to Magners.
Cider's more old-fashioned image
"It's an amazing achievement. This is what they've been trying to do with cask ales for years, and it's finally having an impact. Cider had been in serious decline over the past decade. Its revival has largely been on the back of one brand."
She also praises the brewer's programme of "educating" bar staff to serve the drink in branded glasses, on ice.
"It's a hefty spend and has been helped by the great weather we've had this summer. It'll be interesting to see if they can keep it up through the winter. That remains to be seen."
Ad Breakdown is compiled by Jonathan Duffy
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
I've always liked cider, but felt like I risked social ostracism by choosing to drink it, rather than a popular lager. It tastes nice, and it's great with ice on a hot day. Thank god it's now socially acceptable to drink it!
Nick Grant, Bournemouth
Used to love cider when I could snuffle some from the Christmas stash when I was 10. Went off of it after some not so proud nights out whilst at college. Fell in love with it again at Glastonbury with "Brothers Pear Cider"... The advert confirms broadly that the best drinks are well presented by pleasant bar staff.
Like super-cold lager the only reason to drink something "over ice" is to numb the taste buds so that the flavour (usually unpleasant) is not fully experienced. A traditional almost still cider produced from apples and water and nothing else tastes sublime. Why drink Magners?
A piece of simple yet genius marketing - put ice in your cider! My hotel has sold unprecedented amounts of the stuff, but I'll be willing to bet this time next year we won't be able to give it away as the next trendy product hits the market
Alex McLean, Morpeth, England
The second ad is ok, but the music and narration in the first one was dreadful. Sounded really dated and middle-aged. Doesn't compare to the O2 ad soundtrack, which is fab!
Ah, that clarifies one confusion I had about the advert - I assumed it was digitally animated, not because of the weather and scenery, but because I could not imagine a film crew being allowed into an apple orchard.
Until recently I had never bothered with Cider as I did associate it with kids hanging around the park. Then during the heat wave one Sunday night I sat on a terrace by a canal and spotted someone drinking it. I decided to bite the bullet and order one, what a summer drink, I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be other than sat in the sun drinking Magners over ice.
If I close my eyes and think hard enough I can almost get away from this horrible dreary day back to heatwave of a few weeks ago.
Chris Sanderson, Hemel Hempstead, UK
I live in the West Country and will continue to drink our great cider produced locally - some of the finest in the world. I was in Bristol at the weekend and everybody was drinking Magners. Support your local farmers!
Richard Williams, Cirencester
Be careful not to typecast cider as fizzy. Many a West Country folk will be unimpressed with such disparaging. You can't be considered a cider drinker unless 'Old Rosie' is a favourite. The Pig and Fiddle pub in Bath labels its Bulmers pump with 'NOT LIKE MAGNERS' which seems to sort the cider fans from the Appletizer wannabes. Genius.
Mark, West Country
Hopefully this new 'discovery' will be more than a passing fad for many. Our local beards-n-sandals pub has been serving "real cider" on tap for years - some are typical cider colour, some are pink, some are red and one type is actually black. Some are great, some are awful, none are fizzy but all are different and that's the fun part. Oh, and they're all 6.5% or more so caution is advised!
Jake Perks, Shropshire, UK
Apparently the only reason it's sold over ice is that in rural pubs in Ireland they didn't have proper refrigeration so the only way they could cool the cider was to serve it with ice... seeing as the bottles are now kept in fridges there is no need for the ice (except as a USP!). I remember the days of cider as a teenager...parents (mine and those of friends) would allow us to have cider at parties as they seemed to think it wasn't as bad as beer (beer was STRICTLY forbidden!).
Martin, Hull, UK
Now, for some real cider just go to Somerset... You won't need the ice.
I had never heard of Bulmers until I went travelling in Australia 3 Years ago and managed to secure a job in an Irish bar. My Irish colleagues convinced me that it should be served with ice and even though I thought they were mad I tried it! I am now a Bulmers and Magners Fan, and the fact that it is so much easier to purchase is wonderful, however it does annoy me when I am accused of trying to be trendy and falling for advertising campaigns!
If "it's the new Chardonnay", then that explains a lot - it's a drink for people who don't really like drink, just as Chardonnay is for people who don't really like wine.
Andrew Smith, Eastbourne, U.K.
I've been drinking Magners for years - great stuff!
A Drinker, Belfast
God Bless Cider; it is light, refreshing, heavily alcoholic cheap and, most important for a number of us, Wheat Free. Bar spirits, and some argue 'Budweiser' (Distinction between gluten-free and wheat-free is confusing at the best of time without the doctor failing to explain which type of celiac you are)seem to be the only alternative but when you pour a nice bottle (not pint) over ice, it remains cold and you are transformed into a relaxed individual; free from all other beer and alcopop guzzlers.
Gone then are the days when watering down drinks was considered irreputable! Ice in cider? Balderdash.
Simon McInnes, Caterham, England
I never "graduated" from the cider of my teens - it is still my choice as a refreshing alcoholic long drink. However most of the recent cider adverts, particularly the Magners one, have put me right off ever buying cider again.
This advert was around last summer as well, I distinctly remember I snorted at it wondering who would fall for that one - many of my peers, it seems! I have to admit it has had an impressive effect on the industry but I have not yet succumbed - for me cider has been ruined by teenaged years on Diamond White... I was however interested to see how the adverts would change throughout the year and how they would manage to sell cider on ice as a winter drink, and whilst the ads weren't as ubiquitous as they seem to be in the summer I did catch the occasional advert - this time relocated from beer garden to cosy pub fireside but still with the ice!
Sally - 27, young professional, target market, London
Very successful advertising indeed, successful enough to pique my curiosity enough to try a glass. Must say it was decidedly average, and gets relegated to my "only if I'm dying of thirst and the bar has nothing else" list. I'll always be a Strongbow fan, which doesn't need ice, or a fancy marketing strategy.
Craig, Hertfordshire, UK
Having read the what Mr Breen said with regard to 'fruit juice served over ice' aka cider, I couldn't help wonder if he was trying to credit Magners with inventing this USP? I grew up in Ireland where Magners is sold as Bulmers, like many young Irish my first alcoholic drink was cider not Guinness as many would imagine, over 25 years ago I remember people drinking cider over ice especially in summer and one reason for this was they had switched from their usual Guinness which they referred to as a winter drink and cider as their summer drink. By the way we used to drink it through winter as well ice and all. It also comes on draught minus the ice but always cold. But fair play to them for bringing to the UK I drink it all the time!
Eddie Appleby, London
And you can still have cider the traditional way - in a brown bag, slumped in a field with friends, dodging school and in a parka ....
Ahh this goes to show that cider is now 'cool'! It used to be all about The West Country and people talking with Somerset accents and drinking out of tankards... buying cider cos it was the cheapest thing you could afford and drinkin it on park benches... not anymore! Now it about all ice and looking trendy!! I am a fan of the more traditional cloudy scrumpy cider myself... proper job! Nice and refreshing and bootiful!
I tried Magners at the weekend (admittedly without ice) and it was ghastly, and I like cider! Maybe the ice is needed to numb your taste buds?
Sion Hughes, Northampton
How sad that so many people can be led by the nose through ridiculously transparent advertising. Taste the stuff: cider is not a drink that anyone remotely cool would ever want to drink, even if it has been given a short-lived spurious trendiness by the hey-a-novelty-lets-get-on-the-bandwagon-before-it's-too-late media.
David Jones, Liverpool UK
The foolish will fall for a mass advert campaign, though the majority know cider is never truly popular, always too sweet or too sour for my liking, a tipple for the proper southerners and can stay there.
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