SYDNEY: As beer consumption in Australia hits a 66-year low, leading advertising figures have argued that their industry can play a major role in reversing this trend.

The changing attitudes of beer brand owners were highlighted as one of the reasons for the decline. "Clients have become more risk averse," Sudeep Gohil, chief executive of Droga5, told Ad News. "The fun seems to have gone out of it."

And he expressed scepticism about the current need to pre-test ads and the involvement of different groups of stakeholders. He cited Heineken's chief executive, who said earlier this year "If you make advertising in a committee then you are dead", and argued that he ought to be listened to since Heineken was responsible for some of the best beer advertising in the world.

"If anyone is even slightly nervous in pre-testing, that leads you down the path of least resistance and that is what has happened in Australia," said Gohil. He hankered after a past where "You just came up with a great idea and clients would go for it".

Paul McMillan, managing partner at Clemenger BBDO was less sure the fun had gone but was emphatic that advertising could save beer.

He noted the category had been in long-term decline, as more people drank wine and moved away from regular beers to craft and premium varieties. The job required more, he said, than simply "stimulating brand choice", with brands themselves having to up their game.

As an example of this he pointed to his recent work on a campaign for Crown Lager – Australia's Finest – which highlighted the work of local farmers in producing high quality hops and barley that make the brand a premium product.

"We are believers in the power of creative ideas," he declared. "Advertising should be able to change [the decline]. But we start with the brand's business issue and work from there."

If awards ceremonies are any guide, then beer advertising appears to be in good hands, with a campaign for Victoria Bitter picking up a Gold at this year's Australian Effies and one for Hahn Super Dry a Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lion.

"Beer ads are still the bellwether of marketing communications," noted Adam Ferrier of Naked. "So what is happening in the category is a benchmark for industry."

Data sourced from Ad News; additional content by Warc staff