By Tyler Malone
At AB-InBev, we know you and your simple tastes. After all, we’ve created them—the only thing we’ve crafted in decades. Hell, generations. But still, don’t go. That’s all we’re asking. Please. We make you feel manly because real men don’t drink highfalutin fruit beers. Real men don’t even need a glass. Look, we know you’ve been drinking us since high school, and we even know that this—you and me, us—that’s a high school relationship, one built on convenience and a lack of options. Still, don’t go. We were all you wanted the whole you grew up, and now that you have, we’re all you want. That doesn’t need to change, we don’t need to change. Remember when there was nothing past us? We were adulthood. We gave you football games, fast races, commercials so close to soft-core porno that you thought your boyish fantasies were bleeding into reality. Now, though, we’re going to ask you one thing. Just this one thing. Are you listening? Good. Shut up. No, listen! Just shut up. Really. Drink our beer and like it, okay? Good. Now here’s your life: hard, manly work and chilled beer. All of that lived on repeat. We will continue to sell you the smallest experience possible and market it as a triumph, a truly manly achievement. Drink Responsibly.
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a Budweiser stuck in a human face—forever.
Now that the rant paragraph is done, let’s get down to snapping the $9.000.000 middle finger, the toxic televised event that caused social network sites to resemble a trailer park’s communal trash pile after Thanksgiving, when Bud is everywhere. It’s been ancient history since Budweiser hasn’t stolen the big game. No matter if you don’t care about sports or either of the teams playing, most of America pipes down when a Bud ad appears. Most of the time, amidst the violence and men chasing balls, it’s beautiful how detached Budweiser’s beer commercials have been. From a capella amphibians, to sentimental scenes of horses bowing to a post-9/11 New York, to sad puppy consumers having their fairy tale ruined by the big, bad wolf of craft beer. Through the commercials, America collectively waits for the gag or the climax, the thumping stallions to save drinkers and keep the safe with a sense of timeless sameness. In 2015, though, Budweiser was no longer content with being the advertising juggernaut of beer. This year, Budweiser spoke. And what did the titan say? The beast beckoned ignorance and celebrated stagnation. When Budweiser spoke, it was an attempt to ensure the maximum amount of minimum pleasure.
It could be the time to admit that “The King of Beers” is an emperor with no clothes. Their 2015 commercial proved that all AB InBev can do at this point in the struggle for refrigerator space is to champion “macro beer,” a bizarre celebration of a demarcation that’s normally used to slander. The Budweiser brand should distance themselves from any other concept of beer but their own, and how they should present themselves should be, in a word, consumable, drinkable and nothing else. Budweiser, the one-night stand of beers. Any other beer other than the Bud brand is something they can’t handle, even if they can buy some amount of popularity. <tag boy-outs.> How do they achieve that, though? How can they create an ocean with the depth of a puddle? By trying to appeal to the crowd they consider bought and paid for, of course—American football fans, people that can at the very, very least be presented as the opposite of hopsters and hipsters. In truth, an attack ad on craft beer should fit nicely next to a McDonald’s commercial that’s patronizing enough to assume people will dance for free French fries. Only, it needs to be slick enough that no one notices how the beer advertisement trivializes any form of expression and reduces the drinking life to sameness, rebutting trends that even grocery stores and restaurants embrace as food becomes more and more of an art form. To Budweiser, though, beer is not art. They kill the art. Beer becomes a consumable item and nothing else. The Superbowl advertisement was even created by Anomaly and bore mundane resemblance to a salt-of-the-earth, sweat-on-the-brow commercial the same agency produced for a clothing company just a few years ago.
I thought the Budweiser Superbowl commercial was hilarious. Jud and I had a good laugh while watching it. While belittling and marginalizing their own fans, they managed to seriously ostracize true beer connoisseurs. Quite a feat, considering those segments tend to constitute nearly 100% of the drinking population. My favorite part was the claim that they brew beer “the hard way,” as if fully automated brewing millions of barrels is somehow more difficult than the actual physical labor it takes many craft brewers to literally transport thousands of pounds of grain, not to mention brew, manually clean tanks, package, and transport a handful of barrels at a time. But hey, they do use beech wood, so that does sound pretty tough. In the end, I guess I am glad that beer drinkers are increasingly seeking out beer they intend to smell, taste and experience rather than going out of their way to purposely avoid using their senses. That trend clearly scares some people.
Ben, from Circle Brewing Company
Even though Budweiser wants its drinkers and commercial audience to believe that their beer (and by extension, all beer) can’t be dissected because breweries don’t have laboratories (they do) and even if they did (they do) only eggheads would study beer, we can cut this golden corpse open and rip out all the ugliness we find inside.
With the sound of computer orchestrated drums, the bland sounds of war came marching into living rooms everywhere. The initial reaction was “Shots fired!’ and equally passionate Tweets, but all that’s much too excited for music this flaccid. This is how $9,000,000 sounds to Budweiser: artless and redundant. Yes, that’s how much AB InBev spent on their commercial. Nine million dollars is an amount so magically whimsical that finding someone who brews magic beer is the only person who can offer any alternative to Budweiser’s 60-second decent in redundant madness.
They spent $9,000,000 to say Budweiser drinkers are cool and craft beer drinkers are not. If we had $9,000,000, we’d buy a real unicorn. That, in a nutshell, is the difference between macro and craft.
Michael, from Austin Beerworks
Following the handcrafted, hop-handling images with words such as “crisp” and “smooth” is something more than a near monosyllabic miss. These words might as well not even be there. They’re weightless, limp words following tangible, earthy textures. Those are the two flavorless words an audience has to compare to the pumpkin peach slight seconds later. Figuratively, this is like walking into a snow cone shack in a summer day that’s blistering enough to peel the rubber off your heels, looking at hundreds of flavor combinations to experience—tiger’s blood, bubblegum and raspberry, maybe even something radical such as pumpkin and peach, all in an attempt to recreate Dennis Rodman’s hair color but on an icy dome. Instead of all that taste and experience, you chose a bland cup of ice. Crisp and smooth. “There’s only one Budweiser.”
The brewery from St. Louie might not be proud of much, but they are always ready to tout their history. From the look of it one would think that their beer is still delivered on a carriage, just like it was in 1876, the year Budweiser brewed its first beer. Bully for Budweiser. They survived the Great Depression, America’s first car crash, a few world wars, and Carrot Top. In that achievement, there’s no tragedy, because all Bud did was survive. Something interesting from 1876 was that Bass Brewery’s iconic red triangle became the first internationally recognized trademark, an achievement that was to be snatched by AB InBev in 2005. Real history is now Bud’s history, which seems to be their business plan that they’re building their future upon, like a monument assembled from the bones of others, absorbing everything they can into their own anachronistic history.
Budweiser doesn’t worry us. Don’t believe we share a target market. What scares us is the “craft breweries” AB InBev buys and people still assuming is privately held. That is where possible competition will come from. If they want to be different than craft, then why are they acquiring all these small breweries? Seems like they are confused between their messaging and their actions. Overall, though, we don’t care what Budweiser has to say. We’ll leave it up to the people to decide what to drink!
Sarah, from Adelberts
How big beer has handled sex has always been more perverse than anything Photoshopped in a bikini. When the commercial takes a break from insulting people who pump the brakes of their busy lives to enjoy the characteristics of beer, it does so on the wings of an angel—an avenging angel in flannel bringing fists of long neck bottles to the boys. Always to the boys. This scene juxtaposed with three thickly sweatered men, jolly faces in focus as they share a flight of differently shaded beers on a wooden paddle next to books—books! They’re either reading (in which case makes Budweiser seem like the waitress in the Bill Hicks joke that bothers Bill while he’s reading at a Waffle House to ask him why he’s reading) or they’re taking tasting notes—dissecting beer, something that Budweiser doesn’t allow.
I never thought a Superbowl commercial would make fun of me. I feel personally attacked in a very ignorant way… It was a low blow fabricated by some marketing jag off to address shrinking market share among a demographic. How about make better beer? I’ve spent many hours on Mitch Steel’s blog reading about his days at AB. The marketing department seems to run the operation. We have stickers and a hard working sales and distribution team. The cost of that commercial could have paid for 180 of THE ONLY NEW TANK WE HAVE PURCHASED IN 17 YEARS OF COMMERCIAL BEER PRODUCTION. Save the money used for making fun of people and buy more malt. Your corn tastes shitty.
Jason, from Live Oak
In their commercial, Budweiser brings the flames. Sparks and flames, to be exact, a moronic way to follow the already lame words “crisp” and “smooth.” When the sparks fly in cliched but vibrant arcs, everyone should be asking just how the hell Budweiser brews their beer. This is fight between transforming robots in a Michael Bay movie, not a beverage being made. That’s because at the point it should be obvious that Budweiser’s commercial isn’t about beer or any specific pandered-to lifestyle, or even a way to relax, Budweiser is about selling a delivery system of mediocrity in the most condescending to-the-point manner possible. And that’s why Bud’s commercial is still being talked about a week later. It’s a product made my smart people to make the world dumber, and it attempts to celebrate that simplistic position. But it’s not humble or beautiful. It’s loud, it’s annoying, it’s somewhere no one should be want to unless it’s where they want to be, and that’s the sadness that Budweiser has created. Beer is a product where “drink responsibly” is a quick, morbid afterthought, and living responsibly isn’t even a consideration. Living well and thinking about the tiniest aspect of what you enjoy during the day—what you drink—shouldn’t be celebrated, according to AB InBev. Live responsibly; live well. Drink well and celebrate that we are creatures who find pleasure in laughter and seeking out joys and experiences in the speck of time we can enjoy what’s on the planet. Don’t trust anyone, any corporation, any drum-thumping commercial, who tells you to shut up and not ask questions.
And let us not forget the time in which this monstrosity of hypocrisy laid down on their social media the process in which to enjoy their precious Bud.
The Conclusion: The Caricature
Budweiser—“It’s not brewed to be fussed over.” It took $9.000.000 to advertise petulant defensiveness. This could be be only larger truth featured in the commercial, though. Beer really isn’t a luxury. It’s readily available and moderately inexpensive, and maybe we all have Budweiser to thank for that. Maybe. Craft breweries deal with doom phrases such as over-saturated marketplace and realities like harsh, crafty competition, something that is so bad that even solid brews don’t stand a chance against another brewery just miles away that brews almost the same style with a few notes of difference. The experience is so massive that is could shrink at some point, but that’s no excuse to keep what you put in a bottle boring. Fussy. Even that word has an insulting visual parallel, doesn’t it? Especially when laid over men groomed with pretension as they sniff at glasses, never a woman featured unless they’re ushering in the experience of Budweiser, of course. Personally, I do have some experience at seeing people make this exact pose, when they stop, inhale, and sip. No one sips slowly because they need to make room for platitudes and critique what they taste. Craft beer lovers simply enjoy an accessible adventure. It’s crisp and refreshing, actually.
As of 2015, it’s difficult not to see Budweiser as an abusive drunk who screams at others to shut up. And you won’t. And neither will people who “don’t drink beer” after they discover something handcrafted they love, which happens all the time. You’ll enjoy what you enjoy because you’re a human who wants to make the most of what they can do while alive, which should be more than wait for the next Bourbon County release. Budweiser won’t change, they can’t afford to, but we do, every day. Every time you walk into a brewery’s tasting room or a grocery store’s beer aisle, where the good stuff isn’t packaged in blue and silver or red and white wrapped around a bland blonde body, it’s bliss to know that people, men and women, strive to change an entire industry. They do things the hard way so drinkers can be challenged with a new experience the easy way. It’s a great time to be alive, and it’s always a great time to enjoy anything other than what’s familiar.