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female-friendly fosters: beer, women and a misleading headline

Image by Tomasz Sienicki

Alan Clark, owner of SABMiller – a company responsible for Grolsch and Peroni, bought Australian beer brand, Fosters in 2011. Clark would rather women be consumers of the product nowadays than co-star scantily clad in television commercials and has blamed the common advertisements that frequented television sets throughout the 1980s for their lack of women clientele. 

‘Beer now has associations with fashion, art and design,’ the Daily Mail reports Clark as saying. ‘The world has moved on from lads telling jokes on a Saturday and high volume consumption. Beer is now drunk by women and men together.’

Frankly, I am a little shocked that it has taken this long to grasp that – rather than using women as a pawn to offload beer onto the stereotypical average Joe who forks out his average Joe wage upon seeing a pair of bosoms teamed with a beer logo – sales could have been higher from the get-go with a little less brazen sexism.

Advertisements depicting a buxom female bartender serving beer to a group of hackneyed Australian men or asking the question of how Holly Valance is going to ‘repay’ two hackneyed Australian men for teaching her that ‘smart casual’ can be broken down into ‘smart’ and ‘casual’ have acutely displayed for the umpteenth time that this product is not for us. Former boss men of Fosters have brazenly illustrated that women are there to serve beer and be the butt of the joke: a position that women have held for decades and this display has yet to perish.

The latter advertisement featuring Holly Valance was released in 2011, throughout the time of Clark’s first year as boss man. To change this attitude now for the sole purpose of drumming up sales is a little insulting. If Clark feels that women buyers have been alienated, that’s because inadvertently or not, Fosters has alienated them.

The portentous role of “the butt of the joke” played by submissive women is no longer working in their favour and now it is time for a change of heart. Through market analysis, the number of female beer drinkers in the UK has doubled and the income of European women is due to rise by 18% between 2012 and 2020. Through the science of thought, this is the first time in history that Fosters have seen the customer potential in women.

I am a woman who drinks beer and I am also a bartender who serves beer. If the bar that I work at resembled the murky history of beer advertisements, there would be one hell of a lot more unpleasant lads being unpleasant in the company of pin-up girls and buxom bartenders. That is not the case, because I don’t work at Hooters. If that is the case, then you’re either immersed in a vintage television commercial, or you’re at Hooters.

I serve beer to men and women because beer is not an exclusive ‘boys only’ club and the delicious gender-neutral beverage is not a tool in which to measure masculinity. If Fosters have been wondering why their clientele is not broader, it is because television commercials perpetually depicting clichéd Australian men partaking in some good old-fashioned chauvinism are going to attract a very particular kind of clientele. Thirty odd years of dismissive advertising has led them to reap what they sow. 

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