Why BBH agreed to be paid in beer, not dollars, for new Pabst Stronger Seltzer campaign
BBH New York has found a new compensation model: PBR me ASAP.
The phrase, long used by drinkers in need of more Pabst Blue Ribbon, could also be used to describe how the agency negotiated its way on the beer marketer’s roster. Instead of being paid with dollars for a campaign for Pabst’s new Stronger Seltzer product, the shop agreed to be paid with beer—specifically, 12,000 cans of it.
“We really wanted to work with them [and] wanted to prove ourselves and just thought it would be a fun perk for the agency, really,” says Alex Monger, BBH New York’s business director. “So we calculated how many beers could possibly be drunk in the office, over our happy hours and parties and whatever else, and suggested that number to them, and they were very happy to do that.”
The campaign, which launched this week, is called “Stronger Than You Think.” The goal is to position the seltzer, which clocks in at 8 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), as a more potent choice than the leading brands in the sizzling hot category, which include White Claw and Truly, both at 5 percent ABV.
BBH’s campaign includes several illustrated digital videos that push the strength message via quirky characters. One (above) shows a woman, legs unshaven and carrying a Stronger Seltzer, strutting on a sidewalk that cracks open to reveal a hand extending another can of the stuff. The woman is “being a badass, doing her own thing, being stronger,” Monger says. (See the other videos at bottom.)
The beer compensation arrangement, negotiated earlier this year during a meeting in BBH’s New York office, comes as the agency industry struggles to deal with stingy clients and continued fee cuts. Being paid in beer, not cash, could be seen as a further devaluation of agency services. But Monger doesn’t see it that way.
“I am not saying getting paid in beer is the future of agency remuneration models,” he says. “But I do think there is something where the old paying by the hour thing is so outdated. We are always looking with all of our clients on how we can get paid differently, be it performance-related bonuses, or based on the value of our work. Or in beer.”
For instance, with another client, Air Portugal, BBH negotiated getting a 50 percent discount on flights as part of its compensation package.
With Pabst, BBH had a long-term plan: It proposed the beer deal with the goal to “take on more projects to actually get paid for in money, not just beer, which has happened.” He declined to disclose the other projects, other than to say they involve other Pabst innovations.
The beer deal covered the seltzer work as well as marketing for Pabst’s new Blue Ribbon Hard Coffee drink. Cans of the hard coffee and seltzer are included in the shipments to BBH, in addition to regular Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.
The cans are delivered in quarterly increments. “We did at one point think about getting all 12,000 cans at once,” Monger says. “We just thought it would be a funny visual to fill a conference room with PBR.”
But even with the staggered deliveries, BBH has plenty of brews to get through. “In our storage room there is a mountain of PBR,” Monger says.