Hofmeister had already used a bear to promote their beer before this advertising campaign, but the ad agency (BMP) considered that incarnation too frightening for television. Instead, they gave the bear an image makeover, inspired by the Fonz from Happy Days.
The new friendly Hofmeister bear – “George” – was played by a 4′ 6″ Hungarian strongman named Ivan, who performed in circuses and clubs and had a wonderful swaggering walk.
George was always pictured as the cool guy turning tricks on the dancefloor and even coming out on top on the Sunday football field. And wherever he went, he was accompanied by two blokes – because in traditional beer adverts, the heroes always drank in numbers. A guy drinking alone would be considered a loner (against the rules for beer adverts), and just two men drinking together could make people think they were gay (still a no-no in 1983).
But just as things were going well, disaster struck. Lager louts started to make the national headlines, smashing up trains and causing bother in rural pubs (the drinking holes of Tory voters) and the Government had to be seen to be doing something . . .
So they took off George – banned because he incited lager louts, apparently.
George was temporarily replaced by a hedgehog (with the same swaggering walk), but “Follow the Hedgehog” just didn’t feel the same.