Bud Finds Its Voice?

This is easily one of the most interesting beer ads I've ever seen:

"Budweiser, proudly a macro beer.  It's not brewed to be fussed over." (Shot of a contemptible hipster with old-timey stache.)  A bit later, "It's brewed for drinking, not dissecting."  (More contemptible snobs.)  "Let them drink their pumpkin peach ale."  There's a bunch of other familiar text in there, but when the minute-long add winds up to its booming conclusion with the tag "this Bud's for you," it carries a different resonance.  This Bud, the brewing giant says with a wink, is for you, not one of those poncey hipsters.

It's not even subtext--it's text.  Budweiser VP Brian Perkins told Ad Age that "occasionally we do have a little bit of fun with some of the overwrought pretentiousness that exists in some small corners of the beer landscape that is around beer snobbery. That is the antithesis of what Budweiser is all about."

This is not a beer ad targeted toward you and me.  It's an ad targeted at the huge slice of people who are casual, promiscuous drinkers who might go for a Bud, a Blue Moon or a Sierra Nevada Pale depending on their mood.  Mass market lagers have been taking a beating among that cohort, and Bud's ad is bid to reel them back in.  Those drinkers are attracted to new things said to be tasty, and the ad is an attempt to remind them that Anheuser-Busch believes their beer is plenty full of cred, thanks.  It's a fascinating ad because it's unexpectedly pointed and effective.

More thoughts:

1.  The big companies can no longer ignore craft brewing (and I use that term advisedly).  It was a contemptuous acknowledgement, but the shots at dissecting pumpkin peach ales are still an acknowledgement. 

2.  It definitely tweaked a lot of people, but they're wrong to call it "defensive."  That's echo-chamber thinking.  Many craft fans have internalized the narrative that Bud is both evil and low-grade.  But Bud never accepted those terms--nor have the millions who continue to drink the beer.  To them, this looks like the appropriate retort to a bunch of hipper-than-thou snobs.  It wasn't targeted at the beer geek, whom Bud has already lost.  What really looks defensive are the responses from the geek community who are miffed that Bud is using exactly the same tone (in-your-face, irreverent, dismissive of the competition) that craft has been using for thirty years against Bud.

3.  This approach won't stop Bud's decline.  The truth is, we are a vast, diverse country, and the idea that any single flavor could so totally dominate the market as mass market lagers did for decades, is impossible to entertain in the 21st century.  What is Bud's natural market--16 million barrels (today's figure), 10 million, 5 million?  Hard to say, but no ad campaign is going to reverse the diversification of the market in beer. 

4.  It might well slow Bud's decline, though.  Throughout the decades from the 1960s through the 1980s, big beer companies had honed their advertising strategies to compete against each other over a pretty indistinguishable commodity (fizzy pale lagers).  They didn't advertise beer--they advertised frogs and dogs and lots and lots of bikini-clad women.  It became self-parody, and made it very easy for competitors to paint these products as industrial crap fit only for gullible rubes. That's all fine if the product is a commodity, but once craft brewers came along, it changed the calculus.  If those fizzy light lagers are going to hold onto some share of the market, they're going to have to make a pitch for the beer.  This ad suggests that Bud may have gotten the memo.

5.  "Craft beer" (again, using that term advisedly) had better watch it's own image.  The fact that The New Yorker and Budweiser are both mocking craft beer is not so good for craft beer.  Hipsters are probably the single most hated group in America (so much so that I don't think I've ever heard anyone call himself one), so this association is not good.  Craft beer could take a lesson from the bigs on this point: beer is the common man's drink.  The more craft beer is known as a white, upper-class, urban, metrosexual drink, the more it will be ripe for mocking. 

No grand conclusions here--it's just all fascinating to see.  We do live in interesting times, don't we?