Behind the scenes: La Famille Artois

How do you go about rebranding a product with over 600 years of history? That was the challenge for advertising agency Lowe London in a recent campaign for Artois beer.

InBev, the brewery responsible for Stella Artois lager, recently introduced two other beers, Peetermans and Bock to the UK, creating a family of products under the umbrella title of Artois.

InBev turned to advertising agency Lowe to work on a print and advertising campaign to draw attention to the new products, while still focusing on the Artois brand's long history.

"The campaign is all about passing on that heritage from 1366 through time," says Simon Morris, art director at Lowe London who worked on the campaign. "Imagine you came across a warehouse in Belgium and you found all these archived posters. I wanted to get this sense of history."

The art direction required a classic feel, reminiscent of the posters of bygone advertising from the 1920s and 30s, so Morris enlisted the help of artist David Lawrence, an expert at recreating such artwork using authentic techniques.

"He was a great choice," Morris says. "You just send him a reference wanting to know how it was created and he'll say 'Oh, that was done with a stipple brush'."

After scouring through books and images for appropriate reference material, Morris sketched out some provisional ideas. Working on variations of the theme of one hand passing on the beer to another, the ideas were drafted in detail digitally, providing accurate guides for Lawrence to work with.

With the help of these digital mock-ups, Lawrence then had to establish the most appropriate way to create an authentic-looking poster.

"The best way to do this was to do it the exact same way it would have been done in the 1920s or 30s," says Lawrence. "That is to get stencil paper, cut the stencils out and then use stencil brushes. It actually ended up being very low-tech."

Lawrence created the design on 2x4 foot MDF boards painted with a base coat of white to give the images some texture. The paintings were then photographed to create a large format transparency, which was suitable for reproduction.

To the casual observer, the process may seem somewhat convoluted. Weren't they tempted just to avoid this approach and do the whole thing digitally instead?

"What they were concerned about is if you blow up a bit of artwork created in Illustrator to 96-sheet billboard size it will look very flat." Lawrence says. "Even though you can get plug-ins and filters to add texture they tend to have a repetitive look. If you create an artwork that's four foot by two foot and have a transparency made it will pick up every stipple."

Lawrence believes this is typical of the modern approach to art direction, of using technology when it's suited, but not being a slave to the technology.

"All designers need to be able to use Adobe's Creative Suite," he says "but sometimes you also need to be able to say 'This would be much easier if I did it with stencil brushes'."

For Morris, the use of traditional media worked well because it differentiated the adverts from the current trend for digital design in print advertising.

"Everything these days has the hand of a Mac in it," he says "but with Artois, we really wanted to ensure that we conveyed a sense of craftsmanship."


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