There’s a rare bit of good news on the culture front: Evidently a particularly stupid commercial series by Anheuser-Busch has fallen flat. The ill-conceived ads featured a “Bud Light Party” with comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen riffing off of political themes while hawking their preferred beverage. Now, according to Fox News, beer sales have declined enough that the company decided to cut the commercials’ run early.
Presumably, Americans have simply had enough of this depressing political campaign and are turned off by anything that reminds them of the present political unpleasantness. Yet while some of the ads were just making fun of political campaigns—calling for people to rally together for things that really unify the country, like happy hour and skipping work to watch college basketball—many had politically-correct liberal overtones that would inevitably alienate the half of the country that isn’t on the political left.
In one commercial, Schumer and Rogen announce that they are there to talk about “Equal Pay” and proceed to load the thirty-second spot with simplistic and grossly misleading statements. According to the comedians, women earn less than men and at the same time have to pay more for products like shampoo and cars, and services like dry cleaning.
Unsurprisingly, reality is a lot more complicated than that: Women’s lower earnings are mostly explained by differences in time spent on the job, and career and choice of profession. And, yes, women are sometimes lured by attractive packaging into paying more for some products and services that are geared specifically to women; yet savvy female shoppers know that they can look for generic products and dry cleaners that offer the same prices for both women’s and men’s clothing.
This is how marketing works—and Anheuser-Busch certainly knows this and offers a variety of beers at different price points to appeal different customers. Just as there is nothing wrong with a beer company charging more for one of their specialty brews, even if there is not much difference beyond packaging in the taste of the beer, there’s nothing particularly nefarious about these pricing schemes. But that doesn’t stop the Bud Light Party from inviting viewers to think that this is nothing but rank sexism, as a way to position themselves among Millennials as a with-it company that offers “dudes and ladies” the same prices for their products.
This heavy-handed virtue signaling gets worse in other Bud Light Party spots. Naturally, there’s one celebrating gay weddings and another called “Labels,” that says Budweiser’s beer is for men, women, and everyone in between since “gender is a spectrum” and really, beer should have labels, not people. The ad called “Food Truck” celebrates our country’s diversity and history as a nation of immigrants using a stream of food metaphors, calling America “an everything bagel of unity,” and “a Korean taco of togetherness.”
These ads aren’t particularly funny and certainly aren’t inspirational, but rather have a boring, schmaltzy, after-school special feel. Perhaps this is done purposefully and meant to be a clever statement about just how bad and clichéd American political communication has become. But since product marketing often sinks to the same depths of cliché as political communications, its hard to know if it’s parody or not. Regardless of the intent, the result is off-putting and vaguely insulting, particularly to those who are tired of such overbearing PC lectures.
Fox News also noted that “Bud Light is now focusing its efforts on its sponsorship of Lady Gaga’s “Dive Bar” tour and its brand partnership with the NFL,” so the company is hardly taking the high road as it gives up on this ill-conceived marketing effort. Still, it’s good to know that Americans reject the politicization of beer. Especially in this election year.