Campaign of the Week

4 July 2023

Stella Artois combines algorithms and art history to prove its provenance 

Beer brand analyses famous art work to show that people have enjoyed it for centuries, wins a Grand Prix in Creative Data at Cannes

To promote its heritage, which dates back to 1366, Belgian beer Stella Artois​​​​​​​, owned by AB InBev, created a series of print and outdoor ads using artworks from famous painters that may show people drinking the brand’s beverage.

The campaign, created by Gut Buenos Aires, features paintings by Manet, Van Gogh and others, all of which show people drinking. Superimposed on top of the fine art is a percentage indicating the probability that the people in the pictures are actually drinking Stella Artois. For example, The Peasant Wedding by Breugel is captioned ‘78% probability of Stella Artois’.

The data point was determined using an algorithm that analysed the year the artwork was painted, its geographical location, the shape of the glass being used, the colour of the liquid, and the distance between the artist and the original brewery.

Speaking to Contagious, Ramiro Rodríguez Gamallo and Matías Lafalla, ECDs and  Partners at GUT Buenos Aires, said ‘We also took into consideration the Artois distribution coverage on the year of the painting and potential competitors in the same area. That’s what makes it an honest campaign. It’s the brand saying “We’ve been here for centuries and we can’t be sure... but maybe we are in these historical paintings”’.

The brand also hosted a show on 17 April 2023 at the Bellas Artes Museum in Buenos Aires where visitors were encouraged to scan original works of art with an augmented reality web app, which it would then overlay with the Artois Probability score in real time.

Results / According to the agency, the campaign delivered 7.28 million impressions and reached 6.7 million unique users. During the exhibition, 24,000 people interacted with the web app – a record for the museum.

The Artois Probability won a Grand Prix in Creative Data, and a Gold in the Print & Publishing and the Outdoor categories at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in 2023. 

Contagious Insight 

Making heritage modern / Playing up a brand’s heritage can have benefits and drawbacks. On one hand, heritage can be a sign of credibility and trustworthiness – if a product has lasted for centuries, then it must be doing something right. However, there’s also a risk that it appears old-fashioned and out of date. This campaign’s prominent use of data and technology coupled with paintings that are, in some cases, centuries old, helps Stella Artois achieve a ‘best of both worlds’ balance, allowing the brand to appear modern while drawing attention to its heritage. With sales of craft beers from microbeweries continuing to grow and erode market share from more established players, appearing modern while still being able to claim a trusted heritage is a smart strategy. 

Arresting dissonance / The data + fine art combination is also a key factor in making the ads noticeable. Taking something as recognisably historical as a 16th century oil painting and adding an anachronistic data point gives it an arresting quality, more likely to make people pause on it to work out what’s going on, and shifting the viewer from low-attention to high-attention processing. This is key to increasing effectiveness, with research from Ipsos finding that ‘advertising processed with high attention has a profoundly more significant impact and should be the aspiration of all forms of communication’.

Celebrity and social proof / Stella Artois also benefits by implying an association with some of the world’s greatest painters. The campaign creates a link between the brand’s premium beer and luminaries such as Van Gogh and Manet, suggesting a tacit celebrity endorsement from the art world. The fact that these old masters and impressionists may have documented centuries of people drinking Stella Artois also demonstrates a form of historical social proof – ie, ‘people have enjoyed our beer for over 600 years, so you’ll probably enjoy it too’.

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