Non-alcoholic beer Heaps Normal pokes fun at 1980s ads for Dry July

With the booze-free drinks market booming, how do you get cut through? This Australian brand shows the way.

Right now, the market for non-alcoholic drinks is having a moment. Revenue from alcohol-free beers, spirits, wines and the like is expected to reach US$1.45tn this year, and the market is expected to grow annually by 4.56%.

And that's not surprising. More and more people are discovering that alcohol-free alternatives taste just as good and offer a great way to chill out when you need to keep a clear head, whether because you're working, driving, or just looking to stay healthy.

But with so many non-alcoholic options on our supermarket shelves these days, how does a new product achieve cut-through?

Australia's leading independent non-alcoholic beer brand Heaps Normal has found an entertaining and original way to answer that question. Its new campaign puts its tongue firmly in cheek by waging war on 'boring drinks' during Dry July.

Produced by the brand's internal marketing and creative teams and brought to life by production agency Yeah Rad, the ad is a fun parody of 1980s public service announcements warning of the dangers of drugs.

Hip to be square

For those who weren't around then, such ads often recruited what governments thought were hip celebrities in an effort to appeal to young people. Typically, though, they chose pretty naff people who just made a laughing stock of the whole campaign… something that the Heaps Normal ad heavily leans into.

Featuring ironic cheeseball musician Donny Benét, the ad is titled 'Just Say No To Water'. It highlights H20 as a "dangerously boring drink" and a "plague on pubs, bars, restaurants and bottle-o's around the country" that's better left where it belongs: in rivers, lakes, oceans… and toilets.

The joke is a simple one, but the ad works because it replicates so closely the thing it's taking the mickey out of. Despite the overall silliness, there's serious attention to detail here, from the naff but accurate outfits and hairstyles to the clever colour grading and glitch effects to replicate the look of 1980s videotape.

Plus, how the 'water occasions' become increasingly ridiculous as the ad progresses keeps the viewer engaged.

Best of all, it turns on its head the idea that being sober is boringly preachy by pointing to the fun aspects of the drink and recasting it in a positive life. As Benét says: "The worst thing a non-alcoholic brand could do is tell me to drink less alcohol. But if I want to swap water for a delicious, frothy, beery beverage to get through my gruelling workout routine, so be it. I'm just glad there's a non-alc brand out there that gets it. 'Bout bloody time."

Opening the door

The campaign comes as data shows Australia's non-alcoholic beer market is expected to grow 9.16 per cent a year, pulling in an estimated $289 million in revenue this year. Conversely, alcohol consumption is at its lowest level in over 50 years at 9.4 litres per capita.

In this environment, it's clear that Heaps Normal, launched in 2018, doesn't need to expend its energy on persuading people to try non-alcoholic beer. That door is already open for so many that it can focus on maximising its market share. And this cheeky campaign is a great way to do so.

"We think the conversation about alcohol being bad has happened," says Andy Miller, Heaps Normal's co-founder and CEO. "People get it, and we don't need to preach that. We think the real danger is that as people drink less alcohol, there's a risk that they're picking up bland, boring drinks instead. Have a delicious non-alcoholic beer instead!"

Tim Snape, Heaps Normal's marketing director, adds: "Our drinkers love the fact that we're not ramming sobriety down their throats and that we're having a bit of fun with a product that can so easily take itself too seriously. The fact is, you can drink beer whenever you want now, so…f*ck water. Have a beer instead."

It's all helping to cement Heaps Normal's reputation as a leading player in the field after its Quiet XPA became the only non-alcoholic beer in the GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beer ranking. It was also named the world's best no- and low-alc pale ale beer at the World Beer Awards in 2022, and the brand also scored a recent hit with their limited-edition Coffee Run Stout.


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