Cultural Leaders and Laggards, the problem with beer ads

I love this ad.  How quickly bashful behavior gives way to full-on performance.  And how this disappears (when the woman enters the store). And then reappears (when it occurs to our singer that there is a small chance the strangers might actually come listen to him.)

Funny. Human. With lots of little grace notes. The store is brilliantly cast. The singer is that perfect combo of surprisingly good and still terrible.  The way the woman rolls her eyes in “whatever” dismissal when she enters the store to find a man singing.

Beer advertising has been the bad part of town when it comes to cultural creation and creative ingenuity.  TV with the advent of really good shows and new nuance has stolen the lead. Now it can be really painful to move from good narrative to bad advertising.

Beer advertising has been especially trying on the gender theme. As Bob Garfield has pointed out, beer ads treat men in a way that’s patronizing and diminishing. In a really symmetrical universe, men would protest this treatment with outrage and boycotts.  (Or at least roll their eyes in “whatever” dismissal.)

Beer advertising has been tone deaf when it comes to culture. Yes, some guys continue to act like dolts, and all guys treasure moments of deep, unapologetic stupidity at least some of the time. But beer advertising has to wake up and come to grips with the revolutions taking place in the world of maleness.

There are all kinds of things, a new feeling for play, wit, creativity, multiplicity and, yes, performance. Which brings us back to this Miller Lite ad which acknowledges this new development with just the right combo of tender heartedness and ruthless scorn. Very male that.  (Or maybe not.)

Hat’s off to MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Andy England and  TBWA\Chiat\Day LA and director Matt Aselton of Arts & Sciences.

8 thoughts on “Cultural Leaders and Laggards, the problem with beer ads”

  1. Thomas, I figure that advertising works with culture. It extracts meaning from culture for the brand. It mobilizes cultural meaning for the spot. But sometimes it actually reshapes culture in the process. Please see my Chief Culture Officer for more on this argument. Thanks for your comment. Best, Grant

    1. You have of course got me in a little gratuitous phrase making, but I am going to put a brave face on it and say (and actually mean) that cultural production is when you are mostly extracting and using meaning from culture but culture creation is when you actually leave something behind. culture is different and we hope better.

  2. As a creative director and an ad-maker here’s my simple and tactical take on this. The work should be fun to view (or should I say, ‘experience.’) For it to be ‘good work’ it produces utility for the viewer (could be a laugh or information) and it creates an audience for the brand. My personal test of ‘making culture’ is will someone wear it (the line or the logo) on their shirt or hang it on their dorm door or cubicle wall. Can it be traded upon as a topic of useful conversation. If so, the ad has cultural meaning. As Grant illustrates in his books and here a good way to create cultural meaning is to ‘reflect’ a specific element of our common (or specific) culture.

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