Twinings Tea commercial with Stephen Fry

Do you really understand how advertising is supposed to work? Sure, the goal of advertising is to get you to buy someone’s product, but it does this by letting you know that companies care about you, the consumer. While all good companies care about their customers, having a good product is not often enough. Showing that interest by creating and producing entertaining, creative, and innovative advertising is the one thing that really allows consumers to connect with the companies they buy from.

With the exception of ready-to-drink products (RTD), the American advertising landscape is pretty much devoid of tea advertising.  According to Joe Simrany, President of the Tea Association of the USA,  in 2007 RTD drinks made up the largest portion of the American tea market. This was followed by tea in traditional markets like grocery stores and massive-scale vendors. The speciality tea segment comes in third.

One of the original Snapple commercials

The speciality tea market has been around a long time; it includes all the internet-based, the mom-and-pop tearooms and smaller tea chains across the country. The RTD segment is relatively young by comparison, but it is the convenience of the soft-drink style beverage combined with an aggressive advertising campaign that has driven it to be the top segment of the tea industry. It started with Snapple back in the 1990’s with their receptionist-based advertisements.

The convenience associated with ready-to-drink, soft-drink style tea has been a big hit, especially with young people. Mass-market tea sellers have taken notice by pouring huge amounts of money into advertising to them.

This brings us back to how advertising works. It works by getting a consumer to believe that a company cares about them enough to spend money and time entertaining and informing them. This goes beyond expensive commercials, it also goes to print, internet and radio advertising. If advertising, corporate themes and marketing doesn’t speak to consumers then buyers who don’t feel appreciated by the companies will ultimately walk away. Advertising is more than just pulling customers in; it is also a way a business can show its appreciation.

Modern Lipton ready-to-drink tea commercial
Ready-to-drink teas are really not much more than soft-drinks that compete in a broader beverage market alongside Pepsi and Coca-Cola products. They are often overly sweetened and/or calorie laden. The large market they compete in is dominated by convenience beverages. Advertisers that sell RTD tea convey that tea is healthier than soda — though many RTD teas are only halfway there in terms of health benefits in the spectrum between soda and properly prepared tea. The benefits and flavor that mass-produced, ready-to-drink teas represent is nothing compared to the flavor, flexibility, variety and quality of bagged tea or better still, loose tea.

That said, there is currently very little to no advertising for loose tea or even bagged tea in America. The specialty tea market is far too diverse to support big media campaigns and companies ignore print, radio and television advertising. When was the last time you saw an ad in Esquire magazine for Adagio Teas (arguably the largest online tea retailer)? Has Teavana (a major mall-based retail company) ever placed an ad in Sports Illustrated? Do these companies even care enough to reach outside their niche and speak to a larger customer base?

Of course, advertising can be sexy, enticing and intelligent. We are presenting a number of commercials in this article. The majority of them are from outside the United States. The reason is simply a lack of advertising in America. Take a look at the commercials below. What do they say to you as a consumer? Do they make you interested in the product advertised? If you appreciate the quality, content or humor in the ad, do you get the feeling that the company cares about different types of consumers? On the other side of it, what kind of advertising would you appreciate from tea companies in the United States? If you are a man, how would it affect you to find loose tea companies advertising in Esquire or even Playboy magazine? If you are a woman, how would you feel about the tea companies you patronize if they expanded their advertising to include print and radio ads?

Enjoy the commercials on this page, and think about all the different advertisements you’ve seen in various media from the different tea companies you shop from. Share your comments with us below or start a conversation in the forum. Are American tea companies working hard enough to sell to you and also to entertain and thank you for your money?

Korean RTD tea commercial with actress Jeon Ji Hyun

Wissotzky commercial from Israel

Wissotzky RTD – filmed in Thailand

Barry’s Tea from Ireland