February 1st 2015 saw the 49th Annual Superbowl take place from the University of Phoenix Arizona. The Superbowl is a four-hour extravaganza of Hollywood-budget advertisements before and after a concert by a pop superstar punctuated by short outbreaks of sport.
The adverts are as anticipated as the silly sport that takes place around them (it doesn’t actually involve much use of the foot, that pointy thing can hardly be called a ball, and the winners are apparently World Champions despite the competition only involving American teams.) And with the sport being that silly, watching it seems like a thinly veiled excuse to get the guys round to drink some beer. So it’s the perfect time to run a beer ad or two.
This year, as always, brewing giant AB Inbev made sure that their flagship US brand Budweiser was well represented with not one but two spots. The first was released online before the game and generated lots of discussion about horses and puppies and cuteness (pulling in more than 20 million views on YouTube), but the second caused heated and furious reaction from the beer loving community.
Here, we’ll be taking a look at the adverts side by side, and comparing the message they convey.
“Lost Dog” #BestBuds
The first of Budweiser’s two adverts is nearly exactly the same as last year’s Budweiser Superbowl ad, though this year the heartstrings are pulled harder, the soundtrack is more dramatic and there’s a WOLF THAT’S GOING TO KILL A PUPPY OH GOD WON’T SOMEBODY SAVE THE CUTE LITTLE BASToh the Budweiser Clydesdales gallop to its rescue everything is fine and the puppy returns to its worried owner in triumph with the majestic horses galloping behind.
This advert has absolutely nothing to do with beer. It’s all about the brand, recognition and engagement. It’s a memorable, cutsey film that is designed to get people talking about it so they share the video with friends and family and carry on sharing and liking and commenting until football season kicks off again.
The numbers would suggest that it has worked. 2014’s advert gained nearly 57 million views in a year. The 2015 puppy-starring ad gained 21.5 million views in less than 24 hours after airing (though it had been posted online 5 days before.)
Advert Summary: Right in da feels.
“Brewed The Hard Way” #ThisBudsForYou
The second of Budweiser’s adverts during this year’s many Superbowl ad breaks actually featured some content to analyse. So here goes.
BUSINESS SUCCESS INDUSTRY HOPS MANUFACTURING CLYDESDALES WOMAN BRINGING BEER CLYDSDALES STAINLESS STEEL LOOK AT THE NERDS GODDAMN HIPSTERS MOVING PARTS ICE COLD BEER SMOOTH FINISH ICE COLD BEER BEECHWOOD CHOPPING SAWING SINCE 1876 BREWSKIS DRINK IT LOOK MORE NERDS SNIFFING AND SIPPING GIMME A BUD IN A DIVE BAR ANY DAY BEER YEAH WOO BEER YEEAAAHH GOOD OLD FASHIONED HARD AMERICAN WORK STEEL TANKS GLOVES SPARKS STUPID HIPSTERS WITH THEIR PUMPKIN PEACH CRAP THROW ME A BREWSKI GOLDEN SUDS YEAH CLYDESDALES BUD BROS BEERS BOOBS TAILGATE WOMAN BRING US BEERS BEER BROS WOO
Advert Summary: YEAH BEERS ALRIGHT BUD YEAH BEER WOOOOOOOOOOO BEER ‘MURICAAAAAAA
So the puppy advert got more than 20 million views, remember? This one? Just over 900,000.
Points to consider:
- “Proudly a Macro Beer” – The only raw ingredients shown were some hop flowers and some malt. No sign of the hop extracts and rice that proud macro brewers are happy to use.
- “Beechwood Aged” – Not untrue, but not really true either. Beechwood is used, but it is heavily treated beforehand to ensure no flavour is imparted. The wood is used to provide more nucleation points to speed up fermentation and get more beer out the door.
- This ridiculous frame, which I have named “BudLIESer”. C’mon guys. Someone’s telling fibs agaaaain.
- “Brewed the hard way” – with enormous profit margins, the benefit of the economics of scale, massive infrastructure and automation and things like beechwood to speed up fermentation. As opposed to by hand, through hard work and heavy lifting with quality ingredients, innovative ideas and experimentation – you know, the easy way.
- “Let them sip their Pumpkin Peach Ale” – As long as it’s Elysian’s Gourdgia on my Mind Pecan Pumpkin Peach Ale, which as of last week is owned by Budweiser’s parent company. LOL. Interesting that these gaddamn hippy commie craft ales are meant to be sipped, but you “drink” Bud. LIKE A MAN. BEER. YEAH.
Budweiser’s Superbowl Adverts – Sexist, Divisive and Counter-Intuitive
This second ad is manlier than a shave with a chainsaw. The first one would have had bottles thrown at it by the second. One is heart warming, the other is fist pumping. Budweiser are trying to appeal to everyone.
Or they would be if everyone could be broken down into simple demographics based on age and gender. In reality, Budweiser has appealed to their established drinkers by reinforcing the us vs. them structure between craft beer drinkers (people who enjoy craft beers) and “real drinkers” (people who enjoy drinking).
The first video was undoubtedly more “woman friendly”. Social sharing statistics show that discussion about the advert was split 50/50 between men and women (60/40 with women in the majority when adjusted for inclusion of the word “Superbowl”) The second advert was received mainly by men however, with women only making up 23% of the social sharers.
The first advert is about feelings and associating them with a brand. The second advert is about beer and being “manly”.
Usually, ad campaigns start with an idea of a target audience or demographic. When a previously unreached demographic is recognised as a potentially profitable market, advertising is normally adapted to target them all simultaneously. But Budweiser hasn’t given us an ad campaign that delivers a consistent message to the broadest possible demographic. They’ve done something totally new.
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Somewhere, a marketing manager suggested that Budweiser needs to get more female attention. “How do we go about it?” asks an intern. After a minute of fingers tapping on the boardroom table, a clever Business graduate carefully whispers “Women like cute things…like…puppies?”
“Good, good.” says his boss. “But how can we get puppies looking cute seamlessly into this Drum and Bass, macho suds fest?”
A few confused looks are exchanged across the room. Some uncomfortable fidgeting, open mouths and puffs of frustration.
“Uuuuum…..nope, sorry. Nothing.”
“Screw it,” says the manager. “Just buy a separate ad spot and run a totally different campaign.”
“But what about the macho manly no-nonsense image we’ve based our brand on in the other ad?” asks the intern.
“Keep the two totally separate. Run the ads an hour apart. Nobody will ever realise the ads are both for Bud.”
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Anyway, aside from the two faces of Budweiser, there is another issue. The derision of craft beer and craft beer drinkers.
The ad portrays craft drinkers as mustachioed, tattooed nerdy hipsters sniffing tiny glasses of beer from hand-carved flight boards.
“Look at these squares, drinking their plethora of styles out of glasses. Now look at these dudes drinking seemingly endless amounts of the same beer with other dudes and LOOK a woman is bringing them over HEY NERDS DOES A WOMAN BRING YOU YOUR FAGGOT FRUITY BEERS?
Goddamn nerds with their raspberry wheat beers and honeycrisp apple ales. Who the hell brews that crap anyway? Oh we do? Really? Shock Top you say? Huh. Whoda thunk it.
Freakin’ nerds. You wouldn’t catch me buying one of them camp brews. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll buy the company that makes them. Hell yeah. Maybe women will buy that fruity crap, I’ll save a ton of money on that whole other ad campaign I had to buy to try and get them buying my beer.”
That’s what I imagine the conversation went at AB Inbev HQ.
AB Inbev has just mocked the drinkers they lost to the craft segment and who they have to try to win back. And when that is failing, they simply buy them back, by buying the breweries. And then they mock the customers of the company they just bought.
So Budweiser’s message is this:
Puppies are cute, aren’t they? Budweiser thinks so. But later on when the ladies have gone to bed, we’re going to paint the town red with the guys and laugh at nerds. Nerds we wish would like us.