A funny thing happened during the Super Bowl. A-B InBev's Budweiser ran a really good ad that didn't involve puppies and horses. Oh, sure, that Clydesdale ad was supercute (even if the music stank), but it was the brand's "Brewed the Hard Way" that showed the King of Beers taking off the gloves and cracking some hipster skulls.
Budweiser is a "macro beer" and it's not brewed to be "fussed over." Nope. It's for drinking by secure men and women who aren't concerned with image (or complex flavors). "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale," read the ad copy.
But in the wake of the game, a lot of those consumers, even in the ad industry, were crying into their pumpkin peach ale rather than sipping it.
Funny thing is, Budweiser was simply doing what tons of smart, sophisticated advertising folks have been counseling for the past decade. It was taking a stance. It was establishing passion points and offering a point of view. But because that point of view was directly opposed to the drinking dispositions of a lot of creative sorts, Budweiser was suddenly a big fat meanie-head with stupid marketing that should stick to tits and ass to sell its garbage rice water.
Of course, 100% of the marketing people would immediately change their tune if they were to win the A-B InBev account.
Or if they were talking about advertising from pretty much anyone other than Budweiser. Remember when Apple ran those polarizing spots mocking the PC, and everyone applauded. Or, more recently, when Samsung went after iPhone fanboys in its advertising and everyone was like, "Oh, sick burn, bro."
All of which is fine. Because this sort of marketing does work. There's something to be said for establishing a "them," an opposing force. It creates teams. And teams are fun to rally around, to get into passionate (if pointless) arguments over. Let's have a Team Micro vs. Team Macro battle!
And, yes, A-B InBev is talking out of both sides of its mouth. The company has been scooping up craft brewers. So in essence, it's making fun of its own products. But who cares? Unilever's made a pretty good pile of cash telling women they're all beautiful with Dove's "Real Beauty" effort, while at the same time, telling teenage boys Axe body spray will practically guarantee attacks from sexually voracious, silicone-enhanced size-zero models.
Besides, if you want to talk sheer hypocrisy, look no further than MillerCoors' response to the Budweiser ad. In social channels last week, the giant brewer rolled out a bit of kumbaya "We are all one" silliness. "We believe each and every style of beer is worth fussing over," said MillerCoors in an image accompanying a tweet. This from the company that makes Coors Light, the main selling point of which is that it's really, really cold. "We stand for beer," its manifesto continued. Oh, come off it. You stand for making money.
Your own Coors Light and Miller Lite drinkers aren't going to buy this line. And craft-brew fans definitely aren't.
So where does the hypocrisy come in? MillerCoors actually ran an ad campaign for Miller Genuine Draft back in 1997 saying it was time to quit treating beer like wine. The closing line in that ad? "It's time for a good old macrobrew."
Overall, the manifesto is unbelievable (again: Coors Light) and, worse, sounds like moral preening -- which is something that's really hard for beer consumers to rally around.
MillerCoors should have stayed out of it. Or it should have taken a page from at least one of the country's smaller brewers.
Abita Brewing, down in my home state of Louisiana, simply took Bud's easy-to-replicate ad and punched right back.
"We're not a dog and pony show," the ad reads. "We're Louisiana. Proudly American-owned. Yeah, we made a peach pumpkin beer. And it was good. Damn good. We don't make one-size-fits-all beer." In other words, it hit A-B InBev not only for its boring beer, but also for those cute Super Bowl ads and the fact that it's not, you know, really American.
See, MillerCoors? That's how you do a beer brawl.