To get a drink you have to sell.

“Pour boire il faut vendre” (To get a drink you have to sell) is an entertaining song with a catchy tune, a foot-tapping beat and a far-fetched storyline. Borrowing its title, the exhibition links the driving forces of the song – the desire to drink and the will to buy – to the fundamentals of advertising. Advertising strategies are, and always have been, designed to arouse a desire, trigger the buying impulse and sell a product.

The product at the heart of this virtual exhibition is the famous Black Horse beer, brewed and distributed in Quebec during the first half of the 20th century. More than 800 objects used in its packaging, distribution, consumption or promotion are presented in the collection section. The advertising section situates these objects and Dawes Brewery’s advertising methods within the broader context of advertising’s rapid rise in the 20th century.

One of the marketing strategies for Black Horse beer was to reproduce the brand’s emblem – a magnificent black Percheron – on a multitude of promotional items, enormous signs and print ads. But the most notable tactic was the cavalcade of real-life Percherons, hitched to deliver cases of beer or decorated to compete at fairs. These handsome black horses gave the product unrivalled visibility.

The virtual exhibition complements the physical exhibition of star objects from the Musée de Lachine’s Dawes Black Horse collection. The online show provides access to the entire collection, allowing visitors to view print ads and follow the evolution of graphic design, for instance. Or to consult any of the 83 issues of the in-house magazine of National Breweries Limited, the Dawes Brewery parent company, which shed light on the image the company sought to project. Altogether, these documents offer a unique perspective on the Dawes Black Horse collection and on the development of advertising in Quebec.