Some people call marketing a soulless pursuit. I will not argue with those people.
Marketing is saying something, anything, that will make people buy your product. Sometimes “buying your product” can be defined as “not buying someone else’s product.” But sometimes it can be defined as simply being a massive jerk. If marketing was just an honest recitation of facts, why you should spend your money on a given product, that would be one thing.
It isn’t though. Marketing is manipulation, saying anything about a product to make people think about it in the way you want them to. “But is our ad honest?” isn’t a question you’ll ever hear in a marketing meeting.
That was never clearer than when Budweiser aired this ad during the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The ad features images of Budweiser beer, Bud’s logo, Bud’s brewery and, of course, Bud’s horses. It shows people having fun drinking Bud, people getting ready to drink lots of Bud, people pouring Bud, people or at least machines brewing Bud, and, if I didn’t mention it, people pouring lots and lots of Bud. Those images are juxtaposed with occasional images of very obviously really lame people sniffing craft beers.
I hated this ad. It’s mean and stupid and tone deaf and moronic and idiotic and probably other things. But it’s also worse than that. Much worse.
The first part of the ad is the images I described above. The second part is words written in big white bold letters placed on top of the images. The words appear on screen bit by bit, like a bad poem to bad beer. Here is that bad poem. I should note the whole thing is written in caps (because of course it is) but I’m only capitalizing the first letter of each word because that’s about all I can handle.
A Macro Beer
It Is The Only Beer
There’s Only One Budweiser
It’s Brewed For Drinking
The People Who Drink
Are People Who Like
To Drink Beer
Brewed The Hard Way
Let Them Sip Their
Pumpkin Peach Ale
We’ll Be Brewing Us Some
This Is The Famous
This Bud’s For You
Good gosh that’s gruesome. But what does it mean? You don’t have to go far to see it was a strike at craft beer drinkers. That makes one wonder why is Budweiser “beechwood aging” their beers if their beers aren’t to be sipped or dissected? Does beachwood have some sort of numbing property? And what the hell kind of brewing is “brewing hard?”
This brings me to something different though. It strikes me that there is something more sinister to this. This ad isn’t just stupid. Let’s really look at what this ad is saying.
• Bud is a Macro beer. Macro = big. Other beers, craft beers, are not macro. They are micro. They are not big. They are the opposite of big. They are… small.
• Budweiser is, “not brewed to be fussed over.” Stereotypically speaking, who “fusses over” things?
• Budweiser is “brewed hard.” This means craft beers are brewed the opposite of hard. Well, what is the opposite of hard? Soft.
• Then there’s the whole ‘beer isn’t for studying’ aspect. Don’t study or learn about your beer. Learning is bad. Learning isn’t for Manly Men. Learning is for elites.
• Then the ad brings up “pumpkin peach ale.” Ignore for a second that most craft beer isn’t made craft by the addition of fruit but by the addition of skill and quality ingredients. What kind of beer is “pumpkin peach ale?” Fruit beer. Fruit.
Are you starting to see the subtext here? Small. Fussy. Soft. Elite. Fruity.
This is an attack on the heterosexuality of craft beer drinkers. It insinuates craft beer drinkers aren’t heterosexual, like drinkers of Budweiser are. In short, the ad calls craft drinkers homosexuals.
The makers of this ad and the people who paid to put it on television at the most costly moment in TV history are aware of this. And they don’t care.
They aren’t specifically saying ‘if you drink craft beer you are a homosexual’ so they feel, even if they mean that, since they haven’t specifically said it, they’re covered. They probably don’t care that many if not most craft beer drinkers, like most Americans, support homosexuals and believe a person’s sexuality should be their own business. I’d wager that most Americans also feel, like I do, that someone’s sexuality should never used as an insult, or as a way to derogatorily shift units during the Super Bowl.
But the people who made this ad and the people who paid to put it on TV don’t care because equating craft beer with homosexuality will sadly appeal to some people. It will appeal to some people who get the specific message, but mostly it will appeal to many people who only get the gist. Real men, real American men, are strong, and like women, and like drinking lots of beer made by an American* company. That’s the text.
This ad draws a metaphorical line in the metaphorical sand. On one side are the homosexual elites. They are small, weak, and gay. On the other are the real American men and the real American women who love them. They are big, strong, and will have heterosexual sex with anything that moves. The fact that this is insulting, hurtful, and decided NOT American doesn’t matter because, to the people responsible for the ad, it’s just marketing.