Who Will Save Us From Lame Beer Commercials?

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Why, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, of course. And the Marin Institute. And the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University. With a little help from the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General. Maybe.

The New York Times reports that the anti-alcohol industry is indignant about a Bud Light commercial in which "three men climb onto the roofs of their houses, telling their wives that they [are] going to clean gutters and repair satellite dishes. Instead, the men break out the Bud Light and lawn chairs. One man eventually falls through the roof and into his living room." Anheuser-Busch says the spot, which ran during the Super Bowl and the Olympics (which explains why I didn't see it), is a "spoof." Of what, exactly, isn't clear—maybe stupid beer ads. But the main point is that the rooftop high jinks should not be taken seriously, since that would violate an industry rule against ads that "portray beer drinking before or during activities which, for safety reasons, require a high degree of alertness or coordination."

The FTC, however, does take such matters seriously. At least it did back in 1998, when it scolded Beck's North America for a commercial showing people drinking beer on a sailboat. "Respondent has depicted boating passengers as drinking Beck's beer while engaged in activities that require a high degree of alertness and coordination to avoid falling overboard," the commission said. "This conduct is inconsistent with the Beer Institute's own Advertising and Marketing Code and may also violate federal and state boating safety laws."

But the Beer Institute says complaints about the Bud Light commercial are moot because the ad is not running anymore. "That renders the whole process meaningless, given that many beer ads are designed to air for a short time only," complains CSPI's George Hacker. "It's very convenient. When a company is caught, they can simply withdraw the ad, which then eliminates the possibility of review." I don't know about you, but I like to imagine steam coming out of Hacker's ears as he says this. No doubt he's still fuming about the 2000 "Whassup!" ads, which showed Budweiser-drinking men dangling their tongues in a manner requiring a high degree of alertness or coordination to avoid entrapment in the bottle or entanglement in phone cords.

[Thanks to CEI's Christine Hall-Reis for the tip.]

NEXT: Jacksonian Revolt

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  1. Your tax dollars hard at work.

  2. “an industry rule against ads that “portray beer drinking before or during activities which, for safety reasons, require a high degree of alertness or coordination.”

    Even if you accept the faulty premise that this should be regulated by the FCC in the first place, I don’t see how they could reasonably regulate this, unless said commercial portrayed excessive beer drinking. I can have 1, maybe 2 or even 3 beers (depending on the alcohol content) and still be perfectly fine (and within the law) to drive, sail, or sit in a chair on my roof.

    But, yet again, I am forced to admit my fault: I’m attempting to inject logic into a patently illogical debate.

  3. See, I always regarded picking up hot chicks in a nighclub as activities which, for safety reasons, require a high degree of alertness or coordination, which would throw out mot of your beer ads right there.

  4. Speaking of activities that involve a “high degree of alterness or coordination” I guess they won’t be allowed to make beer commercials that involve hitting on cuties at the bar.

  5. I don’t even like beer, but I’m tempted to buy some and drink some just to spite these idiots.

  6. I’m unclear on this. Can you mention beer in an advertisement within 60 days of a federal election?

  7. I can have 1, maybe 2 or even 3 beers (depending on the alcohol content) and still be perfectly fine (and within the law) to drive, sail, or sit in a chair on my roof.

    Not by CSPI or any other nanny standards, Evan. The only activity that may be safely engaged in once one has consumed a single serving of alcohol is sitting perfectly still in large padded chair.

  8. This beer isn’t working. I don’t feel any younger or funkier.

  9. I actaully know a bit about this. I went for a job in the legal department of the BACC which is the British Advertising Standards Council, to work on alcohol regualtions.

    Alcohol rules are HEINOUS! There’s about a million. I saw the bud light adverts that you guys had in the superbowl and they’d have never aired over here.

    Any moving vehicle or perilous activity eg sailboats and roofs – forget it.

  10. You know, I used to drink six pints* and go do my stats homework. Could they have showed that in a commercial?

    I drank five pints* and then went to the review for my advanced macro class, got an A on the final, would that have been okay to put in a commercial?

    *In about an hour or two.

  11. RC Dean, I bow to your superior posting skillz.

  12. Doesn’t drinking in bars lead to sexual harrassment, and unintended sex? We should ban it. Texas is a pioneer in this regard.

    Can’t drinking at a NASCAR race, without a shirt, lead to sunburn?

  13. I am just tired of every beer comercial consisting of men acting as beer guzzling morons obsessed about finding beer. Jesus, the schtick wasn’t that funny to begin with, when does it end?

  14. I am just tired of every beer comercial consisting of men acting as beer guzzling morons obsessed about finding beer. Jesus, the schtick wasn’t that funny to begin with, when does it end?

    Excellent point. Maybe beer commercials should show men wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow-patches sipping beer out of martini glasses whilst debating whether Pepys’ diaries should be considered literature or history, before segueing into a spirited but civilized debate about whether Einstein or Hawking is the more talented physicist. And then the men can read their poetry to each other.

  15. “Respondent has depicted boating passengers as drinking Beck’s beer …

    The horror!

  16. As a member of the Olympic drinking team, I have to say I agree with these regulations. Beer drinking should only be undertaken by those with proper training and equipment. Don’t try this at home!

  17. The only activity that may be safely engaged in once one has consumed a single serving of alcohol is sitting perfectly still in large padded chair.

    But this will lead to lethargy, diabetes, numbness of the feet, forgetfullness, antisocial behavior, a fat ass, a lack of interest in volunteering at the orphanage, anti-civic involvement, red-eye, blindness, dementia, and finally, death. Banning beer ads is the only way to avoid this.
    Ah fuck it. Let’s just ban beer. We’ll all be shiny, happy people.

  18. In the corporate world, we’re all wondering why advertising firms are producing for us these increasingly surreal commercials that seem to have nothing to do with our products and services. And why executives seem to be scared to suggest that maybe something that actually mentions that our products might be useful. From time to time. I know enough to know that advertiser claims that they really know what they are doing are at least 50% bull. Just like claims that psychologists actually understand human behavior.

    To be sure, beer commercials can get away with a lot, because they’re just about vaguely stimulating brand awareness. Beer = fun, albeit stupid behavior + hot women who will do things with you.

    A friend of mine and his wife, both former local news producers, have similar complaints about marketing folks driving news coverage. They don’t object to marketing being a part of the process; they object to it being all of the process.

  19. Jennifer: if you drank the kind of beer that I drink/sell, your sceenario might be more apt. In fact, I have a “quadrupel” in my fridge right now called “Three Philosophers”, so your “tweed jacket and martini glasses” thiing isn’t far off.

    And, if you do decide to start drinking beer out of spite, for fuck’s sake, please drink good beer.

    John,

    “I am just tired of every beer comercial consisting of men acting as beer guzzling morons obsessed about finding beer. Jesus, the schtick wasn’t that funny to begin with, when does it end?”

    Free market, baby. As soon as the focus groups say so, then it’ll end. I find the commercials rediculous—but I’m a beer snob, so my ridicule comes from the fact that it’s absurd to really think about people caring whether they’re drinking Tastless piss Beer A or Tasteless Piss Beer B.

    All these idiotic commercials where people act like fucking savages just to protect their cheap, shitty beer make no sense. Oh no. Someone stole your bud light. So? Raid the couch cushions for change, and go down to the 7-11 and get another case.

    I might get pissed if someone stole my Scaldis Prestige…but a bud light? Fuck, man, TAKE IT. Be my guest.

  20. “As a member of the Olympic drinking team, I have to say I agree with these regulations. Beer drinking should only be undertaken by those with proper training and equipment. Don’t try this at home!”

    I have heard a rumor that back in the day, during biathlon competitions the competitors, when transitioning from the skiing to rifle shooting, would take a swig or two of beer to slow their heart rate down.

    Whether this was ever actually done in the Olympics, or just back when it was a friendly competition between bored Scandanavian soldiers, I couldn’t say.

  21. Excellent point. Maybe beer commercials should show men wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow-patches sipping beer out of martini glasses whilst debating whether Pepys’ diaries should be considered literature or history, before segueing into a spirited but civilized debate about whether Einstein or Hawking is the more talented physicist. And then the men can read their poetry to each other

    Jennifer,

    I couldn’t agree more. May I suggest the following to everyone. The Tweed revolution is upon us:

    http://www.thechap.net

  22. Jennifer: if you drank the kind of beer that I drink/sell, your sceenario might be more apt. In fact, I have a “quadrupel” in my fridge right now called “Three Philosophers”, so your “tweed jacket and martini glasses” thiing isn’t far off.

    I know. My boyfriend mostly drinks micro-brews with names like “Pretentia-Brau”.

  23. I have a “quadrupel” in my fridge right now called “Three Philosophers”, so your “tweed jacket and martini glasses” thiing isn’t far off.

    Is that the one from Ommengang Brewery? It’s outstanding! If you can find it, I recommend the Thomas Hooker’s Liberator Doppelbock.

  24. Jennifer,

    Granted, beer will never be conac, but image does mean something in marketing. Even allegedly higher end import beers like Heiniken exclusively portray their customers as mentally deficiant trogledytes. I just can’t see how that helps image and sales in the long run.

  25. Jennifer: So he can get “philosopher stoned”. I sense a new movement. Any time you mix pretension with a fad, you’ll do well.

  26. Beer snobs always strike me as those same type of people that insist on saying “I don’t watch T.V.” every chance they get.

  27. I love microbrew beers. I don’t even buy the macro stuff any more.

    Mmmmmmm…Laughing Lab…

  28. Even allegedly higher end import beers like Heiniken exclusively portray their customers as mentally deficiant trogledytes

    John,

    I think it helps because most people are mentally deficient trogledytes.

  29. “Beer snobs always strike me as those same type of people that insist on saying “I don’t watch T.V.” every chance they get.”

    I only watch Adult Swim.

  30. Even,

    There seems to be a rule in marketing, the worse your beer tastes the more obsessed the people in the commercials are about the beer.

  31. but image does mean something in marketing. Even allegedly higher end import beers like Heiniken exclusively portray their customers as mentally deficiant trogledytes. I just can’t see how that helps image and sales in the long run.

    It hasn’t seemed to hurt so far. Perhaps one reason for the “stupid party dude” image is that beer is, in fact, the cheapest alcohol you can buy (except for things like Mad Dag which have a definite Skid Row connotation). If you’re a frat boy and want to buy enough alcohol to get your thirty or fifty or a hundred party guests good and drunk you’re going to buy beer, not cognac or whiskey or anything else.

    The fact that beer makes its drinkers burp a lot might have something to do with its reputation, too.

  32. “I just can’t see how that helps image and sales in the long run.”

    Who said anything about the long run? As long as you can convince the swaddling hordes to drink your swill tomorrow, what else matters?

    “Beer snobs always strike me as those same type of people that insist on saying “I don’t watch T.V.” every chance they get.”

    Please. I watch lotsa teevee. And those anti-TV twats are typically very smug about their choices. No smugness here, just offering up thoughts. Drink all the bud light you want. I pass no judgment—just explaining why these “get yer mitts of my beer!” commercials are stupid.

  33. “There seems to be a rule in marketing, the worse your beer tastes the more obsessed the people in the commercials are about the beer.”

    Well, sure, what are they gonna market it on…taste? Image is all they have.

    “If you’re a frat boy and want to buy enough alcohol to get your thirty or fifty or a hundred party guests good and drunk you’re going to buy beer, not cognac or whiskey or anything else.”

    I can’t believe that they don’t have the same commercials for Aristocrat vodka. “Get yer hands off my ‘crat!”

  34. “Beer snobs always strike me as those same type of people that insist on saying “I don’t watch T.V.” every chance they get.”

    No, its not the “I don’t watch TV” guy who annoys me. It is the “I don’t own a TV” guy who I really hate.

  35. Just think how much better off and more interesting our society would be if these mommy-state twerps actually went out and did something productive with their time. It’s pretty bad when third-world shitholes start to look like beacons of freedom simply because they let a guy drink his beer and smoke a cig in peace.

  36. Correction. I believe the proper title is the “I don’t EVEN own a TV” guy.

  37. See, I always regarded picking up hot chicks in nightclubs as activities which, for safety reasons, require a high degree of alertness or coordination, which would throw out most of your beer ads right there.

  38. RC,

    What? You mean being a groping slobbering drunk with slurred speach doesn’t attract the hot chicks?

  39. I am proud to note that Schlitz and PBR don’t advertise. Old Style does, but it’s a strictly Chicago thing.

  40. “Just think how much better off and more interesting our society would be if these mommy-state twerps actually went out and did something productive with their time.”

    Bodily throwing themselves off of the highest point of the Grand Canyon would be a fantastic start.

  41. I am proud to note that Schlitz and PBR don’t advertise.

    Neither does Milwaukee’s Best, the consumption of which at a teenage beach party made me the non-beer-drinker I am today.

    Milwaukee should sue.

  42. Sorry for the goofy delayed double post. I blame beer-swilling server squirrels.

    And wouldn’t that make a good name for a band?

  43. Neither does Milwaukee’s Best, the consumption of which at a teenage beach party made me the non-beer-drinker I am today.

    There are ads for The Beast. I have seen them fairly recently here in Texas. Something about “men should act like men and beer should taste like beer”…which is a true statement, but patently misleading when used to imply that The Beast tastes anything like beer.

  44. I bet Lou Dobbs drinks PBR

    Dobbs/Buchanan ’08!

  45. Didn’t anyone else see the reports recently that because beers (especially the bad American ones) are losing major market share to hard liquor and wine? And their response, supposedly, is going to be to give their beer a more mature and classy image. Miller is already moving that direction. With any luck, we may actually see a shift away from fratboy beer stupidity.

    One thing always made me wonder about beer commercials. I guess I’m on a feminist kick today but, did it ever occur to you that:
    1. Beer commercials are especially prevalent during televised sports shows
    2. Beer commercials are blatantly sexist, with fat ugly idiots getting the hottest chicks in the world (remember the Swedish bikini team?)

    3. Who the hell does most of the grocery shopping in this country?!! WOMEN! Some of the companies eventually figured this out, but I’ve always been amazed that it took so long. First rule of advertising/sales/marketing is to make sure you’re dealing with the real decision maker!

  46. There are ads for The Beast. I have seen them fairly recently here in Texas.

    That’s a public-serive attempt to dissuade illegal immigrants from coming into the country. “I don’ wanna live in a country with this goddam gringo beer!”

  47. Beer can also lead to hot chicks wrestling in fountains, but only when Bob Guicionne becomes president.

    Guicionne 2008.

  48. That’s a public-serive

    Public SERVICE. Damn, I’m typing like a beer drinker today.

  49. Linquist,

    That is what I was talking about above. Beer is loosing market share to hard liquer. I think the ads and the image have something to do with it. Yes, most mass market beers suck, but a lot of people like them, yet are still drinkng hard liquer.

  50. I can say that Mexican piss beer is better than Beast, Bud, etc, because at least you can add a lime to Corona or Dos Equis and have it taste mostly okay. Still prefer a good heff for a hot summer day, though.

  51. Yes, most mass market beers suck, but a lot of people like them, yet are still drinkng hard liquer.

    Because the main purpose of alcohol is to get your drunk, and getting drunk off of hard liquor is more cost-effective than getting drunk off of beer.

    By the way, did y’all hear what Eric Idle (I think) said about American beer? It’s like making love in a canoe–fucking close to water.

  52. It’s like making love in a canoe–fucking close to water.

    I first heard that said about Coors shortly after I moved to Colorado almost 25 years ago.

  53. I first heard that said about Coors shortly after I moved to Colorado almost 25 years ago.

    Well, Idle is old enough that he might have been the one who first said it, perhaps. I had a crush on him when I was a little girl, and was rather upset to learn that all those Python episodes had been filmed before my parents had even met, let alone had me, which meant Idle was either way too old for me, or dead.

  54. The full statement said the ad was a spoof on the way men act.

  55. I drank Milwaukee’s Beast for a semester or so in college. It’s some nasty stuff, let me tell you. Then again, I was considered a high-end beer drinker because of my preference for Bud and the occasional Michelob. Needless to say, imports were reserved for formal gatherings.

    Hmmm. I recall that sometime in 1987 or thereabouts, Stroh’s was offering $5 rebates on cases of beer. Since it cost about $8 a case back then, the rebate ushered in a Renaissance of beer drinking. I mean, $3 a case? I’ve had single mugs of the frothy stuff for more than that!

  56. Poor Jeff P. Another victim of Python Lust.

  57. The full statement said the ad was a spoof on the way men act.

    Which would imply that the marketers finally figured out their real target audience is women. 🙂

  58. Poor Jeff P. Another victim of Python Lust.

    Believe me–every bit of that lust dissipated once I saw how Idle had aged. Yeeek.

  59. It’s a good thing they disallowed those Beck commercials with the boating beer-drinkers, because if it hadn’t been for those commercials, no one would ever have started drinking while sailing.

    Funny how the anti-TV snobs who make a point of declaring their aversion to toob culture always seem to know what’s going on with various shows.

  60. To be replaced by Terry Gilliam lust?

  61. if it hadn’t been for those commercials, no one would ever have started drinking while sailing.

    Yeah, drinking beer while sailing is reckless and irresponsible. Everyone knows that only rum can give you the nerves of steel and liver of coal required for nautical adventures.

  62. lunchstealer, Gilliam’s arguably improved with age, ’cause he was just frightening back in the 70s.

    Jennifer, there’s always Michael Palin. When I was very young, I used to confuse him and Idle all of the time. Anyway, he’s aged better than Idle (I watch his travel shows pretty religiously). And he’s hung out with the Dalai Lama, which gives him karma cred.

  63. I would like to make a point of announcing I don’t even own a TV. You may all feel free to hate me now. And if I know what’s going on with various shows, it’s BECAUSE THE REST OF AMERICA WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT THEM!

    Jennifer – when I read your comment about “men wearing tweed jackets with leather elbow-patches sipping beer out of martini glasses” I thought of this:

    Mulder: Mr. Simpson, we want you to recreate your every move the night you saw the alien.
    Homer: The evening began at the gentlemen’s club, where we were discussing Wittgenstein over a game of backgammon.
    Scully: Mr. Simpson, it’s a felony to lie to the FBI.

    Seriously, though, it’s hard for beer to get any respect when all of popular culture, including commercials for beer, seems devoted to portraying beer drinkers as Neanderthals.

  64. Seriously, though, it’s hard for beer to get any respect when all of popular culture, including commercials for beer, seems devoted to portraying beer drinkers as Neanderthals.

    I think the beer drinkers themselves bear some responsibility for that. When was the last time you saw a guy show off his ability to crush a cognac bottle with his forehead?

  65. “If you’re a frat boy and want to buy enough alcohol to get your thirty or fifty or a hundred party guests good and drunk you’re going to buy beer, not cognac or whiskey or anything else.”

    Actually, Jen, the cheapest thing to do is fill a trashcan full of Kool-Aid and dump in several bottles of grain.

    Come to think of it, it would’ve been even cheaper (and made more sense) if we simply just threw bricks at each others’ heads.

  66. Beer commercials are blatantly sexist, with fat ugly idiots getting the hottest chicks in the world (remember the Swedish bikini team?)

    Actually, most of the commercials I see (the Coors ones are the best this way) portray scenes full of young, hard-bodied people of both sexes partying hard with their American Piss Beer. Which conveys the message to the Average American Beer-Swilling Slob (I obtained my membership card in 1988) that “if I drink (Miller, Coors, Bud) I will magically transform from a 250lb. lardass into a hot stud whom the girls can’t avoid.” Pretty good image-marketing, I’d say.

  67. I think the beer drinkers themselves bear some responsibility for that. When was the last time you saw a guy show off his ability to crush a cognac bottle with his forehead?

    There is exactly one beer worth drinking that comes in a can.

  68. There is exactly one beer worth drinking that comes in a can.

    Really? Which one?

  69. Timothy,

    Root beer?

  70. A 6 pack of ice cold Keystone Light is yummy on a 105 degree July afternoon after mowing the yard.

  71. Timothy might be thinking of Guiness. For years Guiness in a bottle sucked. I think they might have fixed the problem though.

  72. What’s striking to me is that these commercials aren’t even aimed at children, the ones who the FTC is supposedly trying to protect with content restrictions like this. They involve guys sitting on roofs to get away from pesky wives and sitting around on boats, things which obviously will not get any reaction out of teenagers.

    By pursuing penalties in these cases, the FTC is saying that not only are your kids too stupid to see destructive activity on TV without repeating it, but so are you.

  73. Zero,

    Guiness outside of Ireland and a few pubs in the US that serve a lot of it, it well neigh undrinkable. I hear the cans with the exploding carbination thing in the top has helped the taste some, but once you have had the real thing in Ireland, the states stuff never tastes the same again. I hate to be a snob about it, but its true. I wish it weren’t.

  74. Timothy might be thinking of Guiness. For years Guiness in a bottle sucked. I think they might have fixed the problem though.

    There are plenty of beers that use that draught-can technique besides Guinness, though. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

  75. Okay, okay, I admit it! I hate Guinness! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  76. “Time for another Denver H&R gathering?”

    Al, perhaps, perhaps.

  77. “if it hadn’t been for those commercials, no one would ever have started drinking while sailing.”

    “In Western Australia they don’t even know how to make that vital piece of sailing-boat equipment, the gin and tonic.” -P.J. O’Rourke.

  78. Sorry for the goofy delayed double post. I blame beer-swilling server squirrels.

    And wouldn’t that make a good name for a band?

    No, but it sounds like a good idea for a beer commercial…

  79. Well, Idle is old enough that he might have been the one who first said it, perhaps. I had a crush on him when I was a little girl, and was rather upset to learn that all those Python episodes had been filmed before my parents had even met, let alone had me, which meant Idle was either way too old for me, or dead.

    That’s from the “Bruce’s Philosophers’ Song” skit, from “Live at the City Center”, which, IIRC, came out at least 30 years ago.

    So if they said it about Pete Coors some 25 years ago, they must have got it from Eric Idle.

    I always liked Carol Cleveland meself….

  80. …the states stuff never tastes the same again. I hate to be a snob about it, but its true. I wish it weren’t.

    John, many imports have a problem with freshness. The stuff just ends up sitting in warehouses or on store shelves to long. I think this might be what motivates some to license to North American breweries.

    The problem is that a significant part of a beer’s flavor comes from the local water, so no matter how great a beer might be in Japan, Germany or Australia* it just doesn’t taste the same when made with LA, St Louis or Toronto tap water.

    *but even in ‘strylya Fosters is just another word for piss.

  81. Well, Shiner’s exactly halfway decent, and it comes in a can. Modelo Especial’s kinda ok, and it comes in a can. I think Yuengling comes in cans, and it’s alright. Then there’s the Murphy’s, Boddington’s, Old Speckled Hen, Guiness crowd, many of which are good.

    I think Guiness Extra Stout is better than the ‘draught in a bottle’ version, but I don’t really like Guiness that much. Murphy’s is more my style.

    Still, no really beers are really great from a can.

  82. Well, Shiner’s exactly halfway decent, and it comes in a can. Modelo Especial’s kinda ok, and it comes in a can. I think Yuengling comes in cans, and it’s alright. Then there’s the Murphy’s, Boddington’s, Old Speckled Hen, Guiness crowd, many of which are good.

    I think Guiness Extra Stout is better than the ‘draught in a bottle’ version, but I don’t really like Guiness that much. Murphy’s is more my style.

    Still, no really beers are really great from a can.

  83. Well, Shiner’s exactly halfway decent, and it comes in a can. Modelo Especial’s kinda ok, and it comes in a can. I think Yuengling comes in cans, and it’s alright. Then there’s the Murphy’s, Boddington’s, Old Speckled Hen, Guiness crowd, many of which are good.

    I think Guiness Extra Stout is better than the ‘draught in a bottle’ version, but I don’t really like Guiness that much. Murphy’s is more my style.

    Still, no really beers are really great from a can.

  84. DAMN YOU, SERVER SQUIRRELS!

  85. “DAMN YOU, SERVER SQUIRRELS!”

    What? Can’t a squirrel step out for a beer?

  86. But this will lead to lethargy, diabetes, numbness of the feet, forgetfullness, antisocial behavior, a fat ass, a lack of interest in volunteering at the orphanage, anti-civic involvement, red-eye, blindness, dementia, and finally, death.

    Seven down, five more to go.

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