What an amusing comparison this ad from eighty years ago draws. How reassuring to know that the lager you’re drinking is made from clean grain. Also bemusing is that the second-person point of view of the headline taken with the image of the child having his face washed implies that the boy is the drinker. Or perhaps an infantile version of the drinker.
In which case Budweiser was trying to associate drinking their beer with getting one’s face washed – a form of renewal, a refreshing ritual?
Is the advertisement subtly using cleaning – scrupulous cleaning – as a kind of excuse for the light lager flavour? So clean, all flavour is stripped away! Even the water is washed! With air, clean, clean air! You will never catch influenza from our beer!
But really, were any of Bud’s competitors in the 1930s letting dirt into the bottle? I highly doubt it. Beer has so many stages from the field to the glass that dirt from barley is a total non-factor.
Then there is of course again that creepy “Make this Test” box Budweiser loved so much in those days.
The year is 1940. Prohibition is not long over, its spectre haunts the United States of America as disintegration and war haunts Europe. Advertising barons, smug men in suits, sit in warm offices across the North American continent devising methods for selling lager beer. They are trying to tap into their own brains, decant ideas that are refreshing and retain well.
“Aha!” shouts one bespectacled lout. “The woman’s voice.”
A mass of advertising heads rise and fall. Of course, think these hundreds of men, looking out at their secretaries typing and fending off sexual advances on the office floor. The woman’s voice. It’s perfect. Who understands it better than us – good, red-blooded, hard-working, middle-class American husbands?
A further disturbing part of this Budweiser advertisement from 1940 is the “Test” featured at its bottom. It is severely reminiscent of the “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” maxim.
“Give me an exclusive palate for a week and I will give you a captive drinker.”
All of this commentary of course comes from a 2015 unmarried male who brews his own beer and has no idea what a happy wife looks like.
I just have to weigh in on this divisive $9 million Super Bowl advertisement.
It is very slick, very American and very 2015. However, it’s also contradictory, silly and indulgent.
First let’s talk about style. The font choice for the text is bizarre: bold, forceful and the transitions are quick. The typography seems far more at home on the web than on a television screen – the text is the same as the many run-of-the-mill After Effects infographics populating YouTube these days, rather than something, anything worth $9 million (this aesthetic is only reinforced by the weird logo JPG cascade at 00:50).
Now let’s make sense of the content.
Proudly a macro beer
It’s not brewed to be fussed over
It’s brewed for a crisp smooth finish
This is the only beer Beechwood aged since 1876
There’s only one Budweiser
It’s brewed for drinking
The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer
… brewed the hard way
Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale
We’ll be brewing us some golden suds
This is the famous Budweiser beer
This Bud’s for you”
The contradictions smack you in the face when you simply lay out the prose.
Budweiser isn’t brewed to be fussed over, but remember that it is the only beer to be Beechwood aged for 140 years!
It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting and definitely not for dissecting its brewing methods. But remember we brew it the hard way!
Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale they say – oh – as in the same Pumpkin Peach Ale we also brew and profit from!
AB InBev is trying to have it both, nay, every-which-way with this advertisement. It’s all very silly. Worst of all it seems to be downplaying taste as the defining feature of a beer.
Drink our beer because of its crispness, drink our beer because it is hugely popular, drink our beer because it is famous! Drink our beer because there’s only one of it! Drink our beer because it’s brewed for drinking! Drink our beer because we are proud of it! But for heaven’s sake, definitely do not drink our beer for its flavour.
There’s nothing wrong with the way Budweiser tastes. It’s a neutral, clean, very light malty lager with a low flavour profile. It’s excellent as the first beer of the night or after a long walk through the heat. It’s perfect as an ice-cold chilled beverage. None of that should be ashamed of or elided. Play to your strengths, gigantic corporate beer behemoth.
Anyway – the visual representations in the ad are what have really caused ripples in the craft beer community. Specifically the juxtaposition between Bud drinkers, slamming down beers fast in their cool, partying pub/club environment, and lonely bearded hipsters sniffing porters and fussing over tasting paddles. A false dichotomy? I know that I am equally comfortable in a live music club environment serving only the blandest lagers as I am at the Alehouse Project. Sometimes you’re at a venue to taste new, excellent beers, other times you’re there for music, for company, for dancing or whatever. Meh.
This distinction also feeds into the fear of flavour identified above.
“It doesn’t matter what something tastes like, all that matters is how you look when you consume it. Look at these hipster dudes! Pfft!”
When you order a meal, you order it based on ingredients, method and an expected flavour. It is exactly the same with beer.
To end, let me just say that most craft brewery marketing also leaves a lot to be desired. Contradiction has been at the heart of the craft beer differentiation movement (“we are all individuals”).