Coors Light and effective advertising

Sarah Mason, Planning Director at VCCP, on how to make brilliant creative that's effective in driving business value too.

How can you make effective advertising? Wow, what a question.. a bit like asking how do you write a really successful pop song. But there is some method to the magic, and one of the things we’re most proud of is ensuring that a brilliant opening start has carried on generating brilliant returns for our Molson Coors clients six years on and counting.

The Coors Light Jean Claude Van Damme campaign by VCCP and Zenith Optimedia launched in 2011. Not only is it a shining example of great creative but it has truly transformed the Coors Light brand, delivering a ROI of £4 to every £1 spent.

VCCP’s relationship with the Coors Light client team is based on respect, tenacity and collaboration, and grows stronger every year. And the ability to cite such an impressive ROI has undeniably helped us as an agency attract new clients and cement our reputation as one of London's top fully integrated creative agencies.

Here are the five things the campaign has taught us about how to make brilliant creative that's effective in driving business value too.

1)     Aim for the highest mountain

The five-year business objective set for Coors Light in 2010 was so far from where the brand currently stood at the time, it was almost laughable. But in fact, it was the need for urgent and ambitious change that drove us and our clients to the brave, bold place we needed to be.

2)     Carve yourself a niche

At a time when we’re led to believe there’s no such thing as a USP any more, the Jean Claude campaign showed us that even in a parity market it’s possible to dig deep and find one. Instead of becoming distracted by ‘Light’ as a product feature, we uncovered a unique own-able property in ‘ice-cold refreshment’. Only Coors Light was born in the harsh, ice-cold conditions of the Rocky Mountains.

3)     Look your audience square in the eyes

Before the launch of the campaign, UK drinkers had no idea who Coors Light was for - was it ‘Light’ because it was for dieters? Or people who didn’t like ‘proper’ beer? All they knew was that it wasn’t for them. Nailing exactly who our brand was for allowed us to focus on crafting exactly the right tone, humour and narrative to appeal to our target’s irreverent mindset.

4)     Man up

Pushing through brave, bold work is not for the weak-hearted. Although pre-testing for Jean Claude was largely positive, we still had huge amounts of internal and external resistance to overcome to get the campaign out of the door. It just wasn’t what any other beer brand was doing at the time and for many, it was hard to compute. 

5)     Stick to your guns

Consolidating and building on our successes year after year has meant that Coors Light is now a strong and distinctive brand. And what’s more, by sticking to our guns we’ve also created a campaign that’s become ever more efficient. Had we chopped and changed our strategy, the brand would have sunk back into obscurity and demanded ever more investment to resuscitate.

Most importantly though, on top of all these more practical learnings, the campaign has taught us the value of getting lucky by having the benefit of working with tenacious clients in the first place. None of this would have happened without the privilege of working with a client team prepared to stick its neck out and choose radical brand re-invention over ‘safer’ campaign optimisation. We both took a big risk, but arguably theirs, as the controllers of multi-million budget, was even greater.  

Arguably the most rewarding and valuable aspect of this campaign is the ability to pay back the trust that they had initially placed in us.

Sarah Mason is Planning Director at VCCP.


The run-up to EffWeek 2017 is now truly underway. On 10 October 2017 an army of marketing effectiveness sages, provocateurs, commentators and practitioners will descend on CodeNode in East London.

Speakers include Martin Deboo, Equity Analyst at Jefferies,  Adam Ben-Yousef, Global Head of Marketing Effectiveness at Diageo, Sheila Mitchell of Public Health England, and Sara Bennison of Nationwide.

They'll be joined by over 40 other speakers to move the effectiveness debate forward. Each year EffWeek is based on twelve months of R&D. So as well as top-notch speakers you are guaranteed to be exposed to new information and insights. This year our R&D programme means that we’ll be debating further in-depth insights from Les Binet and Peter Field's ‘Media in Focus’ paper, presenting the results of a collaborative research project between the IPA and CIMA and revealing a green paper written in conjunction with ISBA.

Book now on our dedicated events site. You can also book for some of the many satellite events that will be taking place across the week.

Last updated 21 January 2022