February 8, 2010

Were beer ads always this doofusy?

While watching the Super Bowl commercials, I wasn't surprised by the level of stupidity, given that the infection of meta-irony spread to advertising as elsewhere in the culture. The only exceptions I noticed were for low-end cars, hi-tech -- though not consumer electronics -- and Coke (whose non-ironic slogan is "Open happiness"). Everything else was just a variation on those lame self-aware Orbit gum commercials. By the way, Megan Fox making a duckface for her camera -- minus 10 points.

The worst offenders by far were the beer commercials, half of which you could've mistaken for Will Ferrell movie trailers or public service announcements for Betaholics Anonymous. These are the only kinds of beer ads I've ever known, but then I wasn't of drinking age in the pre-ironic years, so I wasn't really paying attention then. Fortunately YouTube gives 354 results for "80s beer commercial".

Here is a montage from the '60s to the '80s -- nary a doofus ad to be found. Many, including this ad for Stroh's, focus on friends and family getting together and having fun, not a bunch of dorks who have no life. Several others, like this one for Busch, make a sincere congratulation to strong men who accomplish tough jobs, not an ironic wink at drone males who use alcohol to numb awareness of their weak and faggy behavior.

Beer commercials used to appeal to men's pride -- "this Bud's for you" -- but now they tap into their shame. Don't blame the ad companies, since they're just supplying the demand of fragile crybabies. Meta-irony avoids a sincere look at their lifestyle that would reveal what a joke it is, although you'd think then they'd buy more beer. People drink more to escape shame than depression.


  1. Samuel Adams has been progressing away from less ironic on the advertising continuum. Their earliest TV commercials I can remember had a smartass guy dressed up like the great American patriot namesake but the current ones with Jim Koch at least focus on the flavor of the beer. Maybe beer snobbery is good to the extent it rejects ironic advertising, although it has annoying facets of its own.

  2. How "ironic" you should bring this up--the beer commercial. Every so often I tell my mother that beer commercials are so pathetic nowadays and how back in the day they were good. Your provided examples prove it. The only beer commercials that borderlined on silliness were the Spuds Mackenzie ones, but I remember those vividly and don't recall blatant irony in them.

    Nowadays there are so many commercials that reek of irony I lunge for the remote. Geico Car Insurance and Ocean Spray (bog boys) are two of the worst offenders.

  3. Tecate beer runs a commercial on ESPN 2's Friday Night Fights that's entirely in Spanish. I suppose that using a commercial which a show's viewers don't understand - but which makes it clear that Tecate is being advertised - is a form of irony, sophisticated irony to be sure. On the other hand, Friday Night Fights almost certainly has a very large Hispanic viewership, and the ad might just be aimed at them without any irony.


  4. "Idiocracy," anybody??


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