Beer exec: We've tried everything since "Tastes great/less filling." We've tried the "best beer" strategy. We've tried Kung-Fu. Dick. Celebrities. Pilsner. Bar talk. And we keep sinking. Find the answer!
Agency guy: Well, there's always boobies.
Beer exec: Boobies?
Agency guy: Yeah, you know, hooters. Jugs. Headlights.
Beer exec: Now hold on. This is 2003. Aren't we, as an industry and a society, past that? Isn't the nakedly sexist parading of women for the base amusement of male arrested adolescents degrading for everyone involved? Are we so desperate? Have we sunk so low?
Agency guy: Britney Spears. Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Victoria's Secret. Howard Stern. Maxim. "The Man Show."
Beer exec: Find me a pair of breasts! Big ones! No, make that four breasts! Is there still such thing as mud wrestling? Hey ... could they be lesbians?
As it turns out, no, they can't be lesbians. This we know because Ogilvy & Mather, New York, in response to the above exchange (or one very like it), went ahead and produced a Miller Lite commercial in which two voluptuous young women with pounds of bouncing exposed cleavage get in a fight and wind up wrestling in wet cement before falling into a sultry kiss. But the networks, in their sensitivity, said: "Lose the kissing."
The rest, though, has been the star of the NFL playoffs. And it makes the Swedish Bikini Team look like the Little Sisters of the Poor.
The perpetrators of this abomination try to buy some sociopolitical cover by showing two other women-"normal" ones, disgusted with the display. This flimsy gambit to create the illusion of self-deprecation is as transparent as the Bikini Team creators' explanation of "parody" a decade ago. Has everyone forgotten how angry women were about that commercial? How fed up they were with being portrayed as a set of breasts with a nonentity attached?
In the wake of the Bikini Team fallout, beer makers were obliged to declare a moratorium on female objectification. And, sure enough, the cheesecake disappeared, briefly. By about 1998, though, the cleavage reappeared with a vengeance, culminating in Coors' recent booty-shaking paeans to "twins" and now this Miller embarrassment-a term we use advisedly. When the AdReview staff first encountered "Catfight," we were doubly embarrassed-first that the sponsor could be so cheap and vulgar, and secondly that we, the entire staff, leered appreciatively at the babes.
In the end we are all animals, and that was our instincts talking. But the audience's primal urges are no excuse. Civilization is all about subordinating our baser instincts in order to live together in peace, order and mutual respect.
Nor does the boob-bouncing zeitgeist of Maxim-style neo-pinupism give license for Miller to go back to the bad old days. "Everybody's doing it" is not exculpatory evidence; it is merely a rationalization for cowardice.
What's wrong is wrong and nothing-least of all the profit motive-will make it right.