Budweiser ran an ad during the Super Bowl that has attracted a significant controversy. The ad isn’t an attack on craft beer, it’s far more sinister than that. It’s an attack on the craft beer drinker. It uses tactics straight out of the American conservative playbook to target democrats by branding them as elitist, smug and self-righteous. They made liberal and well-educated negative in the political discourse. Now Budweiser is branding “craft beer” drinkers as north eastern liberals and west coast hippies. They’re simply the counter-culture to real beer drinking America.
To examine this, you have to look at the three different ads Budweiser aired during the Super Bowl. We have the whimsical ad that keeps people talking about long after the game ends and this one certainly did. Gone are the days of Wazzup or the Budweiser frogs. In their place is an ad called “Brewed the Hard Way” that’s trying to put across the message that Budweiser is a beer for the many, not just the few. To put it bluntly, it’s are putting out the message their beer is for ordinary Americans and not elitist beer drinkers. “Let them sip their… pumpkin peach ale” because the Budweiser is “brewed the hard way” for hardworking people.
Yes, craft beer enthusiasts can at times take things too far. There are those that see beer as the new in thing, those that have moved beer appreciation to a level that of a superior wine club and of course those that talk people’s ears off about beer. Not all drinkers are enthusiastic about beer as we are. Our passion for beer can come across a little too much at times. It affects the one true thing that beer has above all other alcoholic products, its accessibility. It is this very point that the company’s attacking.
The first ad has attracted a lot of the attention of the beer community out there but another ad run during the game also has craft drinkers in its crosshairs. The “Clydesdale Beer Run” is set in a supermarket where a customer first picks up case of beer that’s clearly not Budweiser (or any other macro brand for that matter). As soon as he does this a Clydesdale horse appears and plainly isn’t happy. Needless to say the customer then opts for a case of Budweiser and slowly backs away. The tagline is “Don’t forget your Buds”. This ad’s quite sinister in that it practically invokes the infamous 100 percent share of mind campaign that began almost 20 years ago. Whilst that campaign focused on strong-arming distributors, this ad targets the actual customer. It’s interesting to note that these ads and the share of mind campaign were both borne out of surges in popularity for craft beer, not its macro-rivals.
Finally, “Lost Dog” is a continuation of Budweiser ads of recent years designed to pull on the heartstrings of viewers. In the past, they even promoted pet adoption in one ad. This ad shows a pick-up truck driving country-boy looking for his missing dog who in turn is looking for his owner. This is an out-and-out American family-values ad (although the song’s a cover of 500 Miles by local band the Proclaimers). It continues the theme of Budweiser being the beer of traditional small-town America that’s resilient against change. It’s trying to convey certainty in an uncertain world. Craft beer is just one more uncertainty. Bud’s just plain folksy and uncomplicated.
What Budweiser fails to mention is that it itself is no longer American, as its global HQ’s in Belgium. It’s more than likely of course that failure to mention this was simply an oversight. So too did they omit to acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, the most recent of which took place 10 days before the Super Bowl kicked off. But what are #BestBuds for if we can’t remind them of this?