Sam Adams finally runs humorous campaign that was halted when pandemic struck

The move is a sign that advertisers are getting a little less cautious

Published On
May 18, 2020

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Sam Adams—which delayed a humorous campaign as the pandemic struck—is now moving forward with the ads, in a sign that advertisers are growing less cautious.

The effort from Goodby Silverstein & Partners is called “Your Cousin From Boston” and features a character wielding the city’s notorious accent. One ad shows him talking just a little bit too much, and little too loudly, during a wedding.

Boston-based brand owner Boston Beer Co. originally planned to release the frivolous campaign in March, but backed off as the seriousness of the coronavirus came into view. “We just did not feel it was the right moment to be launching those kinds of campaigns,” Chief Marketing Officer Lesya Lysyj told Ad Age at the time, as Sam Adams shifted its communications to raise money for restaurant workers sidelined by the pandemic. Asked this week why the time was right now to move forward, she said in a statement that the campaign  “provides levity and entertainment at a time when people are ready and looking for it.”

The change of heart is a positive sign for media outlets, including TV networks, which have suffered as brands curtailed plans in the wake of the pandemic. Boston Beer’s decision comes as Coke, which had halted TV buys for seven weeks, is returning this weekend with an ad running during Fox’s Nascar coverage. But marketers are still taking a short-term approach to decision-making, with fewer brands willing to make commitments during the TV upfront deal-making season. 

Boston Beer’s media plan for the Sam Adams campaign, which starts Monday, is similar in scope to what it had planned in March, according to a spokeswoman. Ads will run on TV, online video, radio and social media. The TV buy includes A&E, AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery, ESPN, FX, Paramount, IFC, TBS and Travel Channel.

The creative approach marks a significant tone change for the brand, which had typically run spots focusing on beer quality and craftsmanship, often featuring founder Jim Koch. “It’s definitely a big pivot—it’s louder and … doesn’t take ourselves too seriously,”  Lysyj said in an interview in March, before the brand decided to delay the campaign. 

She noted that Sam Adams grew up as a craft beer, with almost an “anti-marketing” approach. “You want to be seen as authentic and genuine and not promoting yourself ... that was his philosophy,” she said, referring to Koch. “But we are just now in a very different place and we all recognize it, including Jim.” By that, she means the brand as it has grown has become more mainstream, necessitating an ad approach with “higher energy and more fun,” she said.

GS&P chairman Jeff Goodby described the campaign this way in a statement to Ad Age:  “Sam Adams is a Boston brand. We thought it was time to remind the nation where Sam comes from. Our stories center on a salt-of-the earth, lovable ‘Your Cousin from Boston,’ who works in a local package store.”

While the TV ads remain the same as originally planned, the brand adjusted its digital approach to account for the current environment. Videos now running on social media show the cousin character interacting with friends on Zoom. The spots were shot using Zoom with production handled in-house at GS&P. Goodby described it as a “gathering kind of humor about a moment we’re all experiencing.”