The Budweiser ad with the dog and the horse was probably the most popular of the Super Bowl, for obvious reasons - people love cute dogs. Sure, those ads have nothing to do with Budweiser, but it doesn't matter. Fortunately for our purposes, Bud wasn't satisfied with just having a cute ad and getting out.
Remember: Bud spent nine million dollars to air this. Let's play a little game of Text/Subtext, shall we?
Onscreen text: "Budweiser - proudly a macro beer"
"Proudly produced in a giant factory. Proudly made by a soulless multinational. Proudly indifferent to craftsmanship."
Text: "It's not brewed to be fussed over"
"It's not brewed to taste good. It's not brewed to taste like ANYTHING. It's brewed to go down quickly and easily. It's brewed to get slammed. It's brewed to be sold in a 24-pack."
Text: "It's brewed for a crisp, smooth finish"
"It's brewed so you don't have to think about it. Down the hatch! Here comes the alcohol, bloodstream!"
Text: "This is the only beer beechwood-aged"
"Please don't ask what it means that no one else cares about beechwood-aging. Like, really, if that were so great someone else would probably do it, right?"
Text: "There's only one Budweiser - it's brewed for drinking, not dissecting"
"What kind of flavor profile are you getting?"
"Uh, absolutely zero."
"Yeah, me too. Basically just tastes like piss water."
"But hey! It's got alcohol in it! Let's just pound this shit and get wasted!"
"Aw yeah, bro!" *bottles clink*
Text: "The people who drink our beer are people who like to drink beer"
"The people who drink our beer are people who like to use beer as a way to wash down chicken wings."
Text: "Brewed the hard way"
"Just kidding. Brewed in enormous brewing plants that have been set up to streamline the creation of beer over years of mass production."
Text: "Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale"
"Beer isn't for SIPPING like some nancy boy! It's for CHUGGING! Swallowing by the GLUG. Finishing a bottle in UNDER THIRTY SECONDS. Because this is about taste! And how we lack it entirely."
(Also, as has been pointed out in many places already, Anheuser-Busch recently bought a microbrewery that makes a beer almost identical to the supposedly hyperbolic concoction they're making fun of here. Awkward!)
Text: "We'll be brewing us some golden suds"
"Our beer looks and tastes like it came out of a mop bucket that someone pissed in! THIRSTY?"
Text: "This is the famous Budweiser beer"
"Proving vaguely acceptable to millions of palates, truly enjoyed by none."
Text: "This Bud's for you"
Tiny fucking text: "Enjoy responsibly"
"Budweiser! Produced in huge quantities so you can DRINK IT in huge quantities! But uh, you know, don't have TOO many. We guess. Someone made us write this. So we wrote it as small as possible. Just keep drinking."
Ad Age published some quotes from Budweiser VP Brian Perkins that, much like this ad itself, are almost hilariously clueless. Perkins claims the ad is not an attack on craft beer - which I suppose he'd have to claim, given that Anheuser-Busch now owns a number of craft breweries. It's an attack on pretentiousness! The pretentiousness of wanting your beer to have character, I guess, and not be made to wash down without a second thought. Soooo snobbish.
We've talked about this kind of ad a number of times over the years: the ad that markets itself only to people who already use the product. It's like a high-five to the dude who's tossing cases of Bud into the back of his truck in the middle of Nebraska, or whatever. Which of course is ironic because the ad primarily shows people drinking Buds in upscale urban bar settings, which is probably the last place in America where a group of friends comes in and asks for a round of Budweiser. In fact, that Ad Age article reveals that Bud has had trouble gaining traction in the under-30 set, and suggests that going back to the old "This Bud's for you" slogan is actually a way of turning their focus back to older people. Older people who, I guess, just want to throw back a few.
But you can see why Bud would go on the attack. This is a very political way of selling something - if you're not with us, you're against us. Should we try to win over new customers? Nope. And that's not wrong - if you're a "pumpkin peach ale drinker" (excuse me, "sipper"), you're not seeing a Budweiser ad and thinking, "You know, I'm really getting bored with drinking interesting beer! How about the single most boring, mass-produced lager on the planet instead?" It's like McDonald's running an ad that makes fun of molecular gastronomy. The Venn diagram was already two perfect circles. This isn't a conversion exercise. It's the beer ad equivalent of Donald Trump demanding to see President Obama's birth certificate - red meat to try and fire up the base.
Bud claims this is still about winning over new customers, but no. If you had a bunch of friends but knew a few people who didn't like you, would you spend time trying to make those people into your friends? Or would you hang out with your actual friends and talk shit about those people? Most people would do the latter, and that's what this is. Bud isn't reaching a hand out to non-Bud drinkers. It's flipping them the bird. "This Bud's not for you. Because you don't want it anyway. So fuck you." I guess that was worth nine million dollars.