No commercial potential in Bud Light ads

Posted: January 31, 2014

MAN, when did Anheuser-Busch get so lame with its slogans?

The company that gave us the memorable "This Bud's for you" and "Real Men of Genius" campaigns of yore will spend an unconscionable $28 million on Super Bowl ads to unveil the latest and utterly forgetful tagline for Bud Light: "The Perfect Beer for Whatever Happens."

Just rolls right off your tongue, don't it?

By "whatever," we can assume they don't mean "worst-case scenario," as in, "Too bad your wife has cancer, but at least you've got Bud Light."

Ad Age, quoting an A-B veep, said the new campaign is "totally new positioning for the brand" that will be "a little more reflective of millennial values," including optimism and an openness to "get out there and experience the world."

Sheesh . . . do these guys ever listen to themselves talk?

Judging from the "Epic Nights" ad previews that peppered the NFL playoffs, this new world is a zany one, populated by elevator-riding llamas and the ping-pong-playing former governor of California, and, gosh, good thing Bud Light is now available in a handy Cool Twist aluminum bottle!

Because . . . whatever!

Look, no one expects literature, or even Don Draper, in beer commercials. But is that really the best you could do, St. Louis?

It's like they pulled a bunch of hapless schnoobs into a focus group and fed them a six-pack for inspiration.

Ad exec: So, what's the first thing that comes to mind after tasting this delicious light beer?

Schnoob No. 1: Um, the urinal?

Schnoob No. 2: It's light beer, so it really isn't supposed to have any flavor, right?

Schnoob No. 3: Yeah . . . it is what it is.

Schnoob No. 4: Whatever . . .

Ad exec: That's it! Get me creative!

The thing is, this is the Super Bowl. The pinnacle of the NFL season. We demand that our beer commercials bring their "A" game. We demand "Wassup?" and croaking frogs and bikini-clad catfights, because we're certainly not going to talk about the game with the hot receptionist at the front desk on Monday morning.

But lately the big game's beer slogans have been insipid at best, forgettable at worst.

Don't believe me? Quick: What was Bud Light's previous tagline?

Time's up. It was "Here We Go," which I believe was inspired by Schnoob No. 1.

Before that? "Drinkability," an infamous campaign designed to assure consumers that swallowing Bud Light would do no serious harm to your gastrointestinal tract. As my colleague Daily News movie critic Gary Thompson once told me, bragging about "drinkability" is like a restaurant promising its food is "edible."

I'm tempted to blame this on the Brazilian zillionaires who bought A-B back in 2008. Perhaps they don't have full command of the English language. Maybe "whatever" is more meaningful in Portuguese.

But Bud Light's taglines haven't zinged for at least a decade.

In 2006, it was "Always Worth It," a slogan that unfortunately rhymes with "Always Worth S---." At least that was better than the one they cooked up the same year for that awful Budweiser Select: "A crisp taste with no aftertaste."

Oxymoron anyone?

Before that, "Fresh. Smooth. Real." That could have been talking about anything from diet ice cream to women's tampons. Same goes for "Won't fill you up and never lets you down."

The company will have to go a long way to measure up to the taglines that defined Bud Light in its first 20 years:

"Gimme a light . . . I mean Bud Light."

"Yes . . . I am."

"I love you, man!"

Those slogans entered into the American vernacular, with even schoolyard kids imitating that "Yes, I am" guy. For good or bad, those slogans (and a lot of sales muscle) were the reason Bud Light grew into America's best-selling beer.

These days, Bud Light is still No. 1, but it's sinking. Sales are off, and instead of coming up with a decent slogan, the company is channeling its efforts toward the next, great, fake fruit flavor.

Let's see, they've already done a lime, strawberry and cranberry-flavored margarita . . . I've got it! How 'bout Bud Light Whatever-Rita?


"Joe Sixpack" is written by Don Russell. For more on the beer scene, sign up for his weekly email update at joesixpack.net. Email: joesixpack@phillynews.com.

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