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Are advertisers living in the past – or are we whisky snobs?

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Are advertisers living in the past – or are we whisky snobs?

Postby Jan » Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:21 pm

Ok – this is the holidays and I probably has too much time on my hands, so I had a little fun writing the below rant. Please do not take it for more than it is – I believe anybody should enjoy their whisky any way they like!

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In WM issue 52, I noticed that most ads featuring a glass, used tumblers. I thought that this was a little strange, as it were my impression that most enthusiasts and “experts” agree that a tulip shape (or at least a basic shape with a wide bowl and a narrow top) are the best in order to enjoy single malts and their heady aromas.

What gives? Are those of us who insists that a tulip shaped glass or similar is the best way to enjoy single malts, just elitist snobs – or has the marketing departments of the whisky world no clue?

To some extent I could understand this in an ad in a general magazine, where a tumbler would probably fit with most peoples preconceived notion of a whisky glass.
On the other hand, I think that advertising should feature the right (basic) style of glass in an effort to educate the occasional malt drinker – the right glass does after all make it possible to have the most pleasure possible of your malt. (Nobody in their right mind would picture cognac in a straight glass, would they?)

But in Whisky Mag !? This is after all an enthusiast publication, where one should expect that most readers are knowledgeable about glassware, and I at least, would expect ads to target enthusiasts.

For the fun of it, I counted the advertisements featuring glasses in the last few issues. I included ads for bourbon, which is perhaps unfair, as I’m not sure which glasses bourbon enthusiasts prefer. (Please enlighten me though :D )

The total are:
Ads featuring whisky and one or more glasses: 23
Ads featuring a tasting glass/glencairn glass: 7
Ads for SMS featuring a tumbler: 6
Ads for various types of whisk(e)y featuring a tumbler: 10

Issue 52:
Connemara – Glencairn
Cutty Sark – tall glass with ice (But all right – this is a blend)
Berry Bros – used to be tasting glass- now changed to tumblers. (Ad in connection to letters section)
GlenGoyne – tumbler
Woodford Reserve – tumbler (bourbon)
G&M (various brands) – tumbler
Jim Beam – tumbler (bourbon)

Illustrations – Tullamore trumpet shaped glass p32

Issue 51:
Connemara – Glencairn
Berry bros – tasting glass
Tullamore Dew - tumbler

Issue 50:
Dewars – tumbler (But ok, this is a blend)
Connemara – Glencairn
Inver house – tumblers with ice (advertising anCnoc, Balblair, Old Pulteney)
Berry bros – tasting glass
G&M – tumbler (G&M Cask series)
Tullamore – tumbler
Berry bros – tasting glass

Illustrations to the 50 issues article – two x tumblers p24, 25
Illustration to Magic in the mix article two x tumblers p72, 75


Issue 49:
Tyrconnell – tumbler
Berry bros – tasting glass
Ridgemont Reserve – tumbler (bourbon)
Bernheim – tumbler with ice (Kentucky wheat whiskey)
G&M – tumbler (CC range)
Woodford Reserve – tumbler (bourbon)
Jim Beam – tumbler (bourbon)

So the question must be: Are the marketing people out of sync with their target group, or do a lot of distilleries really believe that their whisky shows its flavors best in a tumbler with ice. (Which would mean that most of us here at the WM forum, drink their whisky in a way it was not intended by the producer.)

Of course an explanation could also be that advertising in WM is simply not targeted at us….

What do you think?

Cheers
Jan
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Postby Jeroen Kloppenburg » Wed Dec 28, 2005 2:51 pm

Haha, I know what you mean =) I'm no longer a subscriber to WM, but rmemebr seeing those ads, and I also see them in other publications :)

These ads are probably mainly directed to the ordinary customer. And they have a certain view on what whisky is, and how it should be taken. Wandering off this path might nullify the whole campaign.

This might sound silly, but its not, really :) You really need to give people what they expect. I've been making animations for video productions (including TV commercials) for over a decade, and one thing I learned quickly is that you dont want peple to think "what is THAT type of glass?", but "now THAT looks like an interesting whisky!".

Let me illustrate with another example: you might know my tatsing notes program. It is written in Perl. This in theory would make it possible to make a program that runs on Linux, Mac, Mac OSX, Windows and I dunno what other OS's you can come up with. IF I only would make use of the standard toolkit library for making the interface of the program. Issue is then however, it will not look "windows" enough. It will look totally alienated to all the windows users, who probably will turn out to be more then 90% of the users of the program. From my experience I know people will frown upon a non-standard look, so I just saved myself the problems and went with a windows look, knowing I would shut out a certain ammount of users form the program.

Exact same issue. And with an add you only have a fraction of a second to capture the attention of the viewer, you want to make sure he'll feel all warm & fuzzy inside over the stags and heather and that warm golden liquid he sees ;)

Now I know, WM and other whisky magazines are not the place for whisky n00bs, but advertising is quite expensive, so maybe they are simply cutting costs with not making seperate ads for these magazines?
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Dec 28, 2005 6:07 pm

Yes, I agree, you don't want people focusing on the glass but on the whisky and a lot of people have a preconception of the type of glass to be used, the old fashioned tumbler.

Remember WM is all about advertising revenue which is why we've seen article after feature article on Laphroaig becuase Laphroaig pays for the article. It also explains why we never see a feature article on BenRiach or Tomatin for example.

Just last night while visiting friends and having a few drams the host choose a old fashioned tumbler instead of a brandy snifter type glass, I think he was more happy with a solid cut crystal tumbler in his hand. But that type of glass is very good for drinking which was what he was doing.

In the end WM has done a good job of educating readers on the more suitable type of glass but if an advertiser wants to feature their whisky with a coconut shell in the ad they be quite happy.
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Postby Deactivated Member » Wed Dec 28, 2005 6:15 pm

Yes, we are snobs, and damn proud of it!

Most astute comments, Jeroen. I doubt very much that most advertisers would feel it cost-effective to produce a single ad for one magazine (or a very few), when their campaigns generally are carried out in the mainstream press. And the wretched tumbler is still the standard-issue glass--in most bars, I must specify a snifter, and even then I am sometimes out of luck. The sad fact is that the overwhelming majority of whisky drinkers in the world prefer to pour their drams over ice.
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Postby hpulley » Thu Dec 29, 2005 1:24 am

My sister, who last year gave me a bottle of 15yo Bruichladdich and a copy of _Peat,_Smoke_and_Spirit_ this year gave me a set consisting of a whisky decanter that belongs on the desk of Q from a James Bond film, plus a set of four tumblers. And she did so well last year, even if she couldn't pronounce Bruichladdich.

I guess we are a strange bunch. The secret society of malt whisky drinkers with our rare tulip tasting glasses and the secret sign for, "don't you dare put water in my whisky!"

Harry
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 2:13 am

Jeroen is right...in the ads, you don't want the glass to distract from the whisky. Besides, the average consumer associates wine glasses with wine, and displaying the whisky as it really should be enjoyed would just confuse the issue.

However, I don't think it would make much difference to some of the distilleries to produce a "correct" version for the specialist magazines. While I don't read enough UK consumer magazines to know for sure, I doubt the smaller distilleries like Old Pulteney (using an example from recent WM issues) do much mainstream advertising.

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Postby Jan » Thu Dec 29, 2005 10:26 am

Good points all - you are probably right, it's all about creating that warm feeling and not distracting consumers. (To get that feeling in me, they could just write the word whisky on a otherwise blank page - more than enough :D )


Lawrence wrote:Remember WM is all about advertising revenue which is why we've seen article after feature article on Laphroaig becuase Laphroaig pays for the article. It also explains why we never see a feature article on BenRiach or Tomatin for example.


Lawrence, while I’m sure that happens, I sincerely hope it’s not as bad as that. Could’nt a contributing factor to article choice be the percived public interest in and/or fashionability of certain distilleries or regions?

Cheers
Jan
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Postby MGillespie » Thu Dec 29, 2005 3:38 pm

Lawrence, I would disagree with you on whether WM gets paid to do articles on certain distilleries. However, there are sections that focus on a specific issue (such as the whisky and food feature each month) that are sponsored by a distillery, and generally wind up including that distillery's products in the article. However, the sponsorship is clearly mentioned at the top of the page. I think the general features (such as the Tullamore Dew and Oban articles in Issue #52) are done based on editorial value and not because the magazine was paid for them.

Do magazines favor advertisers? Yes, it happens from time to time, and if there's a choice between two articles -- but one focuses on a company that advertises in said magazine -- then the editors may well take that into mind. Keep in mind that I'm speaking generally here and not about WM specifically.

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Postby Admiral » Fri Dec 30, 2005 9:20 am

Are advertisers living in the past – or are we whisky snobs?


Both! :)

They are living in the past, and we are whisky snobs.

However, of the two camps, I suggest only one of us needs to change! :)

Cheers,
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Postby Deactivated Member » Fri Dec 30, 2005 12:03 pm

I would disagree that we are necessarily whisky snobs.

We agree that as enthusiasts we prefer to use more suitable glasses to fully appreciate the full spendour of the dram. We are, however, in the minority as far as sales of whisky are concerned.

Most drinkers will drink from "traditional" tumblers (designed for the addition of soda, if memory serves me right, fashionable during the days of the British Empire.) It can't be denied that they look good and the whisky fairly sparkles. It looks better than it does in a Glencairn glass or copita - perhaps a bit too technical for the wider audience.

Given the expense of advertising and the limited audience of specialist magazines, it would simply not be viable to produce seperate adverts just to please the "enthusiast lobby'.

I for one do not really take much notice of product advertised in WM but more for the idea or art involved. I am already sold on whisky and these boards and reviews in the mag sell more whisky to me than any advert ever could.

So WM makes easy money to support the hopefully independent writings and the marketing boys meet their targets. Win win?
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Postby MGillespie » Fri Dec 30, 2005 1:03 pm

Works for me...as long as it keeps the magazine profitable and publishing...

Mark
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Postby Matt2 » Tue Jan 03, 2006 11:13 am

Whisky Magazine does not take payment for articles from distilleries (if it does it is clearly marked as an 'advertorial')

WM does not favour advertisers.

Some distilleries do keep in contact more than others, they let us know what is going on and new ideas. The last time Laphroaig had an article was in Issue 48 about their Quarter Casks (a worthy story?). Tomatin had a 'Mystery Visitor' article in issue 44, and in issue 40 'Benriach distillery to re-open'

As for the glasses it does seem the PR companies are moving away from the tasting glasses to tumblers.
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Postby bamber » Tue Jan 03, 2006 8:04 pm

I always notice this and it makes me :roll:

The little card that comes with Glenfiddich OB's has the younger ones with ice and the older ones without, but all in tumblers.

My glass preference goes->

Tulip shaped whisky glass (like the Ardbeg or Glenmoranige branded ones)
Tulip shaped sherry glass
Tulip shaped Port glass
Brandy baloon
Wine glass
Half pint glass
Pint glass
.
.
.
.
Tumbler

Tumblers are rubbish for drinking whisky. You can't warm it, with that thick bottom, it's hard to see the colour properly, a small measure looks like a [accent=Glaswegian]wee stain in the bottom of my glass[/accent].
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Postby Badmonkey » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:31 am

Whisky advertisers in Japan invariably show whisky being poured into a tumbler over ice in TV and movie theatre ads. I suspect several reasons for this come into play, not least of which is that most whisky drinkers in Japan drink their whisky in tumblers with ice. The other aspect is visual appeal. The image of honey-coloured whisky cascading over rough-hewn chunks of ice into a tumble evokes images of waterfalls and fills the screen, playing on associations of nature, purity, and fine whisky. It's also an effect you cannot easily replicate with a narrow snifter. Some might say the image of tumbler with ice is more masculine than a snifter, and there is no question that whisky advertising over projects an image of rugged masculinity. Would any of the same considerations apply to advertising over here? I can't speak to that with any authority, not have leafed through a copy of WM in the last 6 months. It wouldn't surprise me, though, if there were many cross-cultural constants in advertising just as in other businesses.
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Postby Badmonkey » Wed Jan 04, 2006 8:32 am

I should add that I am most certainly not a whisky snob. However, with time, practice, and encouragement, I hope to become one sometime in the near future.
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Postby corbuso » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:21 am

As mentioned in many posts, whisky has been associated for many years with the tumbler. The tumbler was know to be the whisky glass, but things are changing.
Until a few years ago, at the exception of a few Single Malts like Glenfiddich, the only whisky you got was blended whisky and for blended whisky, the glass did not matter too much because most of the drinkers were adding ice cubes and ev. soda. The only issue for the whisky makers was to make sure that the whisky was not getting cloudy and that the colour was the same from batches to batches.
Since the rediscovery of the single malts, drinkers are getting more aware about the effect of the glass in the flavours of the whisky. The Glencairn glass is only known to most of us for only a few years.
Regarding the ads, you should not forget that the marketing team is usually based in Glasgow or in London and don't necessarily know much about whisky and tasting. They are just there to sell the products and may contract out the ads campaign.
Since these people know as much about whisky as most consumers, whisky= tumbler.
This does also explain why they are selling tumblers in distillery shops. This is decided by the marketing/merchandising team and not by the distillery manager.

But I think this does change, especially for the more limited malts and the ads targeting a more specialized audience (although Bowmore with its last limted edition at £350 used a tumbler).
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Postby Lawrence » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:14 pm

Whisky Magazine does not take payment for articles from distilleries (if it does it is clearly marked as an 'advertorial')

WM does not favour advertisers.


I'm glad to hear it and stand corrected, thank you.
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Postby Matt2 » Wed Jan 04, 2006 5:38 pm

:P
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Postby Admiral » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:33 pm

Cheap post, Matt! :D
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Postby bamber » Thu Jan 05, 2006 10:51 am

As was that ;)
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Whisky glasses and snobs

Postby Muskrat Portage » Sun Jan 08, 2006 2:34 am

This string deserves a comment.

This Christmas, my wife gave me two crystal Single Malt whisky glasses from Nova Scotia Crystal that she'd picked up in Halifax. They have a pretty nice product, albeit a tad expensive.

The whisky just looks better and presentation is everything.

As for whisky snobs, at the last tasting we had, the question was asked "Are we whisky snobs". The reply by another member was "No, we merely appreciate the individuality of the Single Malt."

Words to live by.
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Postby patrick dicaprio » Sat Jan 14, 2006 6:08 pm

Jan, i think it is certain you have too much time on your hands!! that said though i think you make some very good points.

Pat
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