Budweiser's Super Bowl Commercial and What it Means

Yesterday was Super Bowl Monday, the national demi-holiday celebrated in office break rooms throughout the nation. It’s marked by the tradition of criticizing the advertisements we willingly subjected ourselves to the night before. Nationwide’s horrific ad was king of the hill when it came to yesterday’s water-cooler talk. But I want to talk about Budweiser’s controversial commercial where they praise their “hard” method of brewing beer.

Budweiser’s let’s-just-drink-beer-because-you’re-not-supposed-to-think-about-it Super Bowl ad is a true puzzle. The ad lambasts craft breweries that feature “Pumpkin Peach Ales,” but a quick Google search will show you that Budweiser just recently acquired Elysian breweries, one of the few craft breweries that actually do feature a Pumpkin Peach Ale. It could be a hidden nod of recognition to their own hypocrisy here, or a huge oversight. Either way, as the creator of the “Lime-A-Rita,” a margarita-flavored malt beverage, can Budweiser really pass judgement on odd-flavored beers?

The ad starts with criticism of the people who “dissect” beers, but immediately follows this up by lauding Budweiser's “beechwood aging” process -- an observation that seems hypocritical and contrary to the point they’re making about “fussy” beer drinkers.

The ad left many viewers wondering what “brewed the hard way” even means. It could refer to the difficulty of brewing a consistent beverage at the scale which they produce, but there’s little context given to the viewer. All I can say definitively is that this ad is confusing. I can’t tell who it was targeting, or if it was targeting anyone at all. Budweiser, the “King of Beers,” purveyor of the only beverage that perfectly captures the essence of 2 week-old nightstand water, is obviously working in panic-mode.

Forty-four percent of “millennials” (young adults), have never even tasted Budweiser. And, I’m no statistician, but I’d venture to guess that most of them would not return to Budweiser after trying it once. Not only is Budweiser a bad tasting beer, but to consume it has become something of a mark of shame -- BeerAdvocate, a prolific community of beer aficionados, rates Budweiser, an American adjunct lager, a 57 out of 100, or “awful”. In the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, microbreweries reported several years of unprecedented double-digit growth. Combined, growing competition and declined popularity have taken a toll on Budweiser, and this Super Bowl commercial might be the last weapon it has up its sleeves.

Budweiser isn’t the only “Macro-” company feeling the pinch right now. Coca-Cola recently announced major layoffs in its Atlanta headquarters. Starbucks is seeing only moderate growth. And I just recently read that McDonalds is amidst crisis too

Macro.jpgAlthough ailing Budweiser uses the term “macro,” it’s not just the big guys hurting. Take Allentown’s A-Treat for example. They were a small-fry company compared to larger beverage companies like Coca-Cola, but just last month had to shut down completely, due in part to the company’s inability to provide the consumer with a health-conscious, quality product.

What does this all mean? Big guys are hurting. Little guys are hurting. But people are still eating. It boils down to this:

Producers don’t need a super bowl ad to sell their product. What the consumer wants is quality. We’re at the tail-end of the second-worst financial crisis our country has ever seen, and consumers are finally getting back on their feet. If there’s one thing true about the people hit hardest by the recession, it’s that they appreciate what they do have. Their appreciation didn’t die with the recession, but spawned into a new consumer culture -- one which makes the big guys anxious.

It’s why I have tremendous hope for our food co-op, and the thousands of institutions around the world that also strive for quality first. The consumer isn’t a dope; the consumer is your family, in the most literal sense. In today’s culture, success comes only as a byproduct of the love you show for your trade as a producer, and that’s becoming more recognizable by the day. Our co-op was founded on the idea that local producers are the foundation for that love, and we hope to foster it well into the future. So ignore the $9 million dollar Super Bowl ads and the watercooler talk, it’s time to get real.

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