Watch the Spot

Argentine Government Nixes Santo's Innovative Promotion

Ad Shop Wanted to Fill a Swimming Pool With Isenbeck Beer as Part of Contest

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BUENOS AIRES ( –- Instead of simply throwing a poolside beer party, Argentine agency Santo and its client Isenbeck decided to host a summer celebration last week where lucky contest winners would swim in a hotel pool full of Isenbeck beer.

There's no law against swimming in beer, but the Argentine government nixed the idea, claiming the "Pileta de Cerveza" ("Pool of Beer") ad campaign and the plunge into a pool brimming with brew would encourage irresponsible drinking.

"Their complaint is just ridiculous," said Santo founder Maximiliano Anselmo, noting that people wouldn't actually be drinking the beer they were swimming in.

Santo began running an enticing spot in late November showing a young man who strips, climbs a tall ladder and does a cannonball dive into a pool full of beer as his admiring friends watch and sip from Isenbeck bottles. The spot announces the fiesta and the pool filled with beer instead of water, and invites people to enter to win a chance to cavort in the pool with five of their friends on Jan. 9 in Mar del Plata, Argentina's most popular beach resort.

More than 4,100 people entered before the campaign was stopped. Mar del Plata's mayor and Buenos Aires province officials pressured Isenbeck to call off the party. Bloggers were all over the story, and one posted that swimming in beer could lead to an alcoholic coma.

At first Isenbeck decided to go ahead but instead fill the pool with yellow and white balls, simulating the beer's colors. Even that didn't work.

"Finally Isenbeck decided to pull the plug on the party," said Sebastian Wilhelm, the other co-founder of WPP-backed Santo. The government might have regarded holding the party, albeit with non-alcoholic balls, as a provocation.

"For our part, we are sad for not being able to experience swimming in beer, but we understand their decision," Mr. Wilhelm said. "Legally, they could have dissed the government and thrown it anyway, but it was probably a wise decision not to do it."

Isenbeck has about a 4% share of the beer market dominated by Quilmes, owned partly by global giant InBev, with close to 75%. "They're thrilled about the buzz," he said. "They are a small brand compared to Quilmes." The winners were contacted and offered prizes the agency wasn't supposed to disclose. (Beer, maybe?)

"Maybe next time," Mr. Wilhelm said philosophically.

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