Probably The Cutest Lager In The World

Probably The Cutest Lager In The World


It’s easy to be cynical about Carlsberg’s new ad from agency Fold7. The beer brand – known for the dry wit of its “Probably the best…” campaign – has teamed up with the WWF to introduce viewers to an adorable seal, who happily frolics among forests of carbon-capturing seagrass which the brewer has planted. Subtle it ain’t, and “The Seal” is a big departure from the traditional Carlsberg style.

But as their Marketing Director puts it, Carlsberg has been on “a journey of positive change”, with a greater emphasis on sustainability – getting rid of plastic ring-packs, for instance. And taken at face value, “The Seal” is a great example of how to do a sustainability-themed advert.

There are three big issues with eco-themed advertising from consumer brands. First, it risks raising problems too big for a brand to solve. Carlsberg escape this by teaming up with WWF, who have genuine credibility and authority in this area, so the beer brand doesn’t feel like it’s overreaching itself by getting into this topic,

The second issue is that the ad will make viewers miserable by emphasising the very real effects of the environmental crisis. Carlsberg avoids this by keeping the focus on the positive, in the form of an extremely cute seal. The result is that we hardly see any negative emotion – the seal appears before the problem the brand is tackling, creating sustained happiness for viewers.

And the third issue with issue led brand ads is that the brand can take too much of a back seat, hurting Brand Fluency and the ad’s effectiveness. Carlsberg escapes this by the conceit of having the opening of its can summon the happy seal. It’s a bizarre bit of storytelling, but it works – both the short-term Spike Rating and the Brand Fluency score showing quick recognition of the brand are exceptionally high.

Overall, the ad does extremely well – at 4.9-Stars it gets straight into our top 5 for the entire alcoholic drinks category. It was one of the best-performing ads in our recent Euro 2020 competition with ITV, and one of the few to reach the final shortlist without a football connection.

Lucy Crotty, Cultural Strategy & Insight Lead at ITV went on to say:

“The climate crisis can feel pretty overwhelming to the average Joe which leads to the classic ‘ostrich head in the sand’ coping mechanism to avoid the doom and gloom. But, talking of ostriches, the British public have really engaged with Sustainability when seen through the lens of wondrous nature so it seems very fitting and effective for Carlsberg and WWF to harness the power of this doe eyed seal, frolicking in the clear seas to give us a positive vision of the future. That you can save the planet whilst cracking open a can of Carlsberg appeals to a less lofty mainstream audience who want to make convenient wins for the environment. You could say it has our seal of approval.” 

Carlsberg’s recent campaigns – like their “Mean Tweets” stunt, or their admission that they were probably not the best lager in the world – have had a self-deprecating tone, which has played very well with the industry but not really connected with audiences in Test Your Ad. “The Seal” swings to the other extreme, and lands a lot better. But the brand still needs to find something that can work consistently.

Creative agency credit: Fold7