Goliaths

The world needs more genuine, authentic Daves

A Super Bowl ad from Budweiser stokes the fire of annoyance in The Blogfather’s real ale loving gut.

If Budweiser were truthful, their comms would be: we are the default beer you ask for when your favourite beers are not on tap. May taste like piss. We aren’t the King of Beers, more the Local Town Councillor of Beers.

Amongst all the Super Bowl ads that flittered through my virtual window on the world this past week, one stayed with me. It niggled me, but not in a good way. On the surface it’s an OK ad, but the messaging and underlying connotations bothered me a bit.

The ad in question is from Budweiser, which you should see embedded down amongst these words somewhere, and which takes a dig at craft beers, with copy that includes, ‘not a hobby…not small…not imported’.

This from a brand whose parent company, AB InBev, bought up three craft beer breweries in a 5 day period last year, including the UK’s Camden Brewery. When you have 25% of global market share, I imagine you start getting paranoid about being usurped by a young pretender. Or you are just hungry for more cash.

Yes, you have companies that have a stable of brands with different identities, but this feels different. People say it’s Camden who sold out, going against the very principle of what a decent, independent craft beer is about, but AB InBev are arguably just as guilty of duplicity by ribbing a brand image that they believe in strongly enough to invest so heavily in.

Most people probably won’t bat an eyelid at it, but to me it makes Budweiser’s branding seem a little like a façade, lacking authenticity. But then, how many brands are genuinely truthful? If Budweiser were truthful, their comms would be: we are the default beer you ask for when your favourite beers are not on tap. May taste like piss. We aren’t the King of Beers, more the Local Town Councillor of Beers.

AB InBev’s top line copy on their website sounds like something from a beauty pageant; “bringing people together for a better world.” Yeah, that’s your chief concern. Maybe they will start sponsoring UN conferences.

The Super Bowl ad was primarily for a US audience, a different market to the UK of course, so some Donald Trump-esque anti-import, American only rhetoric will, sadly, go down well there. Yet even in this they seem to have forgotten their roots.

The ‘AB’ in AB InBev stands for Anheuser-Busch. Adolphus Busch was the German-born son (youngest of 21 sons in fact!) of a brewing magnate, who emigrated to America at 18. Eberhard Anheuser was his German born father-in-law. Together they lay the foundations of the Budweiser brand.

By way of a contrast, Brew Dog is the epitome of the ‘David’, taking on the Goliaths. This very week has seen a perfect example. You can read all about it here and sample Brew Dogs spot on comms, but they basically got screwed over by Diageo back in 2012 and have not forgotten it. And now they have revealed their own dark, malty stout named Jet Black Heart’.

Using a feud to inspire a new product, launched with irreverence and pithy parody of an iconic ad is bold and inspired, and the copy is note perfect.

I blogged on Super Bowl ads last week. The general consensus is that the adverts in and around it were mostly disappointing. I suppose if you are paying $5m just for the 30 second slot on TV, it does not leave much for the creative and production. All these large brands spending mega bucks on mostly uninspiring ads. Anheuser-Busch InBev was actually the top company in the Super Bowl game, with 3:30 minutes of ad time across five ads.

If the biggest just get bigger, consuming any small, young, promising thing in a kind of brand symbiosis, then diversity of identity and creative could end up sorely lacking. You could argue the Super Bowl 50 ad output is indicative of this. As much as the Camden Brewery will try and maintain their identity, its integrity has been undermined and it’s unlikely AB InBev will let them retain the liberty that Brew Dog have, shown perfectly in this quote from James Watts, Brew Dog Founder:

“Online you can not only compete but you can kick the ass of these bureaucratic risk-averse incumbents, who’ve had it their their way for far too long.”

After the Super Bowl, in his post game interviews, Peyton Manning, the winning quarter back, twice referenced having a Bud to celebrate. Apparently it wasn’t contrived, and AB InBev must have loved it, but presumably they didn’t have Peyton’s favourite craft beer on tap at the Levi’s stadium. Budweiser would have locked out any other brands anyway.

It’s great to have a choice, isn’t it?

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