The Musée de Lachine collection contains close to 300 beer ads. They were published between 1886 and 1951 and illustrate the various campaigns and slogans deployed by Dawes Brewery. Appearing in dailies, periodicals and theatre programs, the ads were initially text only, like the one from an 1886 English-language Montréal daily. Later, they were often illustrated with a black horse prominently placed near the brand name. The size of the Percheron was gradually reduced to make room for pictures of the product or of consumers in staged settings.
Advertising in Wartime
During World War II, a federal Order in Council prohibited all advertising for brewery products. Only ads in the public interest were allowed. The brewery’s name could appear, but the product could not be shown or named. As a result, Dawes Black Horse Brewery created public service ads that encouraged the purchase of Victory Bonds, for example, or supported recycling campaigns or blood drives. Black Horse ads asked people to send magazines and cigarettes to troops overseas, and urged them to grow Victory Gardens; in short, to make “an all-out war effort,” as National Breweries advertising manager Alex Thomson put it. These ads carried messages such as “Contributed to the National Effort by Dawes Black Horse Brewery” – thus getting the brand name out without directly mentioning the product.
Brewery product ads were permitted again once the Order in Council was repealed, but with certain restrictions. Ads could name a brand of beer, provided they did not illustrate the bottle, indicate the price or show consumers drinking. Nevertheless, National Breweries decided to continue running public service ads as a means to gain public favour. This form of advertising led consumers to develop a positive feeling about the brand. The Connaissez-vous (Do you know?) campaign and the one called In the Service of the Public, which spotlighted professions, were part of the strategy.
Do You Know?
Along with selling its products, the brewery aimed to raise its profile and develop its brand image. To this end, in 1948, it launched the Connaissez-vous (Do you know?) campaign, a three-pronged concept. First, the campaign title was used in the title of a Black Horse-sponsored radio show, Connaissez-vous la musique ?. Then it appeared in Connaissez-vous print ads presented as quizzes. And after that in a slogan that included the name of the product: “Connaissez-vous la meilleure bière du Canada ? ... C’est la Black Horse” (Do you know Canada’s finest ale? It’s Black Horse.).
In the print media, each Connaissez-vous ad edified readers about a particular subject, such as where the oldest region of the world is, the real freezing point of water and the origin of the custom of tossing rice at newlyweds. According to the Black Horse creative team, these ads were of interest to readers across the spectrum: men and women of all classes, urban and rural alike. But above all, they appealed to the multitude of people who liked to read fast and easily.
A committee of experts selected by the brewery chose the topics, which ranged from music to natural history, folklore and sports. People were encouraged to submit articles and information and received $25 if their contribution was used in producing an ad. For the company, this type of advertising offered the added benefit of gathering consumer information.