Shame on Miller, but not for the reasons you think. Plus reviews of news ads for HP and Budweiser. Let us know what you think by sending us your comments.
Miller Lite "Pillow Fight"
Shame on you Miller. No, not for showcasing ta-tas to sell beer. I wish we lived in a world where that didn't happen, but I also wish I had narrower feet. No, I'm not criticizing the Miller "Catfight" cycle for gratuitously exploiting pulchritude to sell beer. In fact, I'm going to do the unthinkable, particularly for the owner of a pair of breasts (if I can call them that, compared to the bionic bazoombas bouncing around the Miller spots) and pronounce this campaign a winner. Yes, that's right -- I'm going to judge the spots by the same idea/execution/brand support criteria we use in most of our ad reviews here and by those lights, the spots are good -- not perfect, but good. The campaign has put Miller on the map and I'm going to bet that most guys who drink beer of the Miller type really like this campaign; I'm betting it makes them attach positive feelings to the brand. The campaign has taken on a cultural life of its own, and that's brand paydirt.
The new spots give us humorous twists on the original: including thespian Pam Anderson joining a pillow fight, and various other scenarios dreamed up by beer-swilling lads in a bar as the women folk look on in disdain. Are they offensive? I guess so. But on the offensiveness meter, they rank pretty low. It seems you can't swing a huge hooter these days without hitting an offensive ad. Even, and maybe especially, outside of the beer realm there seems to be a resurgence of that particular beast. It seems hilarious to calmly take in all the sexist dross that clogs our media outlets and then have a fit about a beer campaign that takes the Sexist Beer Ad form over the top and back. Look at, lets say, the new Cointreau ads, which feature naked women wrapped in orange peels. It's utterly ridiculous and gratuitous. To add insult to injury, it's been reported that the client sees the women in these ads -- impossibly thin and gorgeous models -- as accessible to a female audience and the lot is meant to make me -- urban dwelling female alcohol enthusiast -- warm to the brand. It's almost enough to put me off drinking altogether. Almost.
The shame is that Miller doesn't go for it completely, but instead falls back on the lame cushion of cutting back to the couples in the bar and the tsk-tsking women. (I also have a quibble with one of the new spots that depicts the gals' fantasy come to life as two buff guys start to take each other and then revert to oversensitive ninnies. Please. Throw us girls a bone, so to speak.) First of all, how many guys talk about breast fantasies in front of their girlfriends? And if these women are not their girlfriends, and if they're like most women, they would either be ignoring their male friends' meathead blather or joining in the fun. But more importantly, the cranky girlfriends don't add anything -- in fact I think bringing chicks into the picture to make nice to the female audience is one of the more offensive things about the campaign. It gives the spots a hypocritical tone -- using the boobage and chasing it with "we're just kidding." Well, we're not just kidding. This is reality circa 2003: beer = breasts. Reality may suck, but these ads do not. (TI)
HP "Bang & Olufsen"
The new Hewlett-Packard campaign has distinguished itself with a slick look and a readily identifiable design. A new series of spots from Goodby furthers the "plus HP" graphic treatment and continues to put HP into context using other high profile companies that use the company's gear. In one new spot, we see a lovely scene of everyday life enhanced by visible sound. As sound escapes from people and things, we see it in animated waves and fields. It's a great effect and the spot is memorable. Another beautiful spot links HP with Porsche as we see the wind traveling carelessly through the streets of Paris, until its own breath is taken by the lovely lines of the German-engineered auto. The spots are a treat to watch and lend HP cache without going into the overly earnest territory occupied by most tech marketers. (TI)
Bud "Who Would You?"
Putting aside questions of whether "Catfight" and its sequels spell the end of civil society, Miller's new Sex Offensive only makes sense because Budweiser has lost its way. As "Whassup" has -- at last -- run its course, the King of Beers is struggling to find a new voice. Not that it hasn't been looking. This year, Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl slate included work from five different agencies and two different taglines for the flagship brand alone. True? Fresh? We just don't know anymore.
Really Miller is just beating Bud at its own game as the latter increasingly relies on a scattered barrage of sex, stereotypes and comic violence to sell beer. But Miller is getting the benefits -- and not that much more criticism -- by going the distance on all three counts. Meanwhile, the most intelligent strain of Bud advertising has fallen by the wayside. The "True" campaign is at its best when it rings -- um -- true, as it has in spots like "Greeting Cards," "Bad Boys" and now "Who Would You?", all of which make spot-on observations about the differences between men and women. So potent is this Mars/Venus stuff, even Miller uses it as a cloaking device for its thinly veiled sex romps. In Bud's new "Who Would You?" we see men bantering about who they would like to hook up with at the office, their cavemen minds spinning with limitless possibilty. Meanwhile, back at the office, the women have already decided that no one in the office makes the cut. The moral? Anheuser-Busch should let Miller have the bouncing bimbos. Real men and women, on the other hand, are Budweiser's to lose. (JH)
(THE REVIEWERS: Jim Hanas is the editor of AdCritic.com. Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine.)