Drinks historians have uncovered what they believe is the world’s first ever drinks advert.
The ad, showing a monk with a chalice full of fermented honey, saying ‘I feel the need… the need for mead’, beats the previous oldest ad by almost 1000 years.
Experts believe it first appeared in an issue of Vanity Friar circa 500AD, which would make it even older than the late Michael Broadbent.
Magazine of the year – literally
‘Obviously, at this time, there were no printing presses, so each issue of the magazine would have been calligraphed by hand,’ said Dr Honey Beer, who led the group that made the finding.
The team think it would have taken the Benedictines about a year to produce each issue, which, according to Dr Beer, would have made them ‘significantly more productive’ than most journalists today.
With an estimated readership of about 250 monks over the year that the issue was on sale, she described the exposure of the advert as ‘about comparable to a 21st century drinks website.’
The advert coincides with the peak of mead consumption in Europe. The ‘Mead in Britain’ stamp has been found on jars across the continent, and there was even a ‘Mead Means Mead’ campaign to protect the country from foreign imports.
Euro record holder
The ‘need for mead’ finding is significantly older than any other drinks advert found in Europe.
It beats both ‘If I give porter to your daughter, she won’t do what she oughter’ (1820) which later became a music hall hit, and ‘Buy me sack or I’ll be backe’ from 1586, which went on to inspire the Terminator franchise.
‘Torquemada says “si” to sherry. You should too or you will burn in hell’ (1498) used to be considered the oldest ad, but has since been reclassified as a ‘scaremongering threat’ rather than a consumer activation.
The Sherry Council stopped running ‘eternal damnation’ campaigns in 2006.
Please sup responsibly
Yet for Dr Beer, the most fascinating element of the discovery is not the age of the ad or how different it is, but, rather, how little has changed.
‘Take the ‘Please Sup Responsibly’ line that appears at the bottom,’ she told Fake Booze. ‘Even at a time when monks were quite likely at any moment to have their head lopped off by a longboat full of hairy-arsed Vikings, there were still people out there who thought that the greatest threat to health was having a couple too many chalices after vespers.
‘And as for the image of someone with a dodgy haircut drinking a sweet crap product out of an unnecessarily large vessel…
‘Frankly, that could have come from a 21st century gin bar anywhere in the world.’