The night chauffeur

While driving around London last night, a heavy-lidded femme fatal ambushed our car and seduced the driver into providing her with a quick getaway – she was on the run from the law it turned out. 

After being pulled over by a menacing looking cop, the criminal vixen hid in the embrace of the rear passenger’s arms while I looked on as the driver ‘took care’ of the cop before delivering the red-lipped woman to her destination.

The femme fatal roamed the streets
The femme fatal on the run in Angel

You might be surprised to hear this unusual ride was all part of the launch of a new lager from Stella, Stella Artois Black.

To launch the beer, Stella Artois will be transforming ten pubs for one night each into an immersive theatre experience akin to stepping into a film noir. Intrigued that the brand had chosen to launch the lager by enlisting the services of creatives beyond the design and advertising spheres, I went along to see whether the night worked as a branding exercise.

The femme fatal roamed the streets
The night chauffeur

Last night, the Peasant in Angel was transformed into a sultry 1960s bar complete with jazz band, props galore, moody lighting and even moodier actors.

On arrival I wrote my name on a card and delivered it to ‘Bernice’ and later I was called, ushered into a 1960 Citroen DS and thrown into a turbulent world of sixties cinema.

Stella Artois Western Europe marketing director James Watson explains the choice to launch the beer in this way. ‘Because Stella Artois Black is an exclusive beer launching in just a few selected bars, instead of writing commercials or posters, we felt the best way to promote this launch would be to create an exclusive theatre experience,’ he says.

The femme fatal roamed the streets
On the run from the law

But as a branding experience, does it work?

The acting itself wasn’t up to the standards of something from immersive theatre company Punchdrunk and was sometimes a bit hammy and try-hard – perhaps aptly for a predominantly Belgian brewery that tries very hard to give the impression it’s French. But it was fun and well targeted at the young, cultured, Secret Cinema-loving crowd that the brand is trying to tempt back after the lager’s ‘wife beater’ labelling.

Intimacy and exclusivity are difficult to convey to a customer with a low cost product but it was successfully achieved through this event. And although this kind of campaign won’t reach as many people as a billboard would, word of mouth and press coverage will no doubt create a healthy buzz around the new beer, even if everyone can’t take part.

The Night Chauffeur runs at Village East, London SE1 on 14 November, The Peasant, London EC1V
on 15 November, The Old Blue Last
, London EC2A on 16 November, The Westbourne, London W2
on 17 November, Chamberlayne, London NW10 on 18 November, The Dove, London E8 on 21 November, The Black Dog, London SE11 
on 22 November, Grand Union, London NW5 on 23 November, The Ten Bells,
London E1 on 24 November and The Old Goat, Twickenham TW2 on 15 November.

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