The Beer Ad Culture War Is Killing Me Inside - DMT NEWS

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The Beer Ad Culture War Is Killing Me Inside

I would have known that Bud Light and Miller Lite existed whether they recently put out ads or not. I would have gone to my local grocery store, gas station, or Walgreens and picked out an 18-rack of whatever was on sale that suited my palate—which, as my allegiance to sale prices probably suggests, isn’t terribly refined. And frankly, the next time I buy a case of beer, I’ll likely do just the same.

But now, my purchases are burdened: by the risk of appearing as though I’m making a political statement, by the potential of contributing to some “boycott” I don’t care about, by the possibility of seeming cringe. I’m not trying to make any political statement; I’m just trying to drink some beer. So why do major beer companies continuously muddle their already-solid brand awareness with their advertising?

That’s what happened recently with Bud Light, America’s most popular beer, and their partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The company paid Mulvaney for a sponsored post on her Instagram feed, where she promoted a March Madness-related giveaway. Soon after, Bud Light also sent Mulvaney a custom tall boy can with her face printed on it. Both instances appear to be one-offs, brief attempts to highlight the brand before Mulvaney’s audience alone—a noteworthy 1.8 million followers on Instagram, on par with celebrities and influencers like David Chang or Julia Fox but still a fraction of the following of, say, the second-most-famous D’Amelio sister.

Those posts might have passed on in the news cycle with nothing more than a few angry, transphobic tweets if it weren’t for a podcast appearance from Bud Light’s VP of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, explaining a broader rebrand of the company. “We had this hangover. I mean, Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach,” she said on the “Make Yourself at Home” podcast in March. Suddenly part of a broader conspiracy, this one-time sponsored post from a trans influencer ballooned into an all-out culture war, with national news outlets reporting on the drama and the boycott built around it.

A month earlier, Miller Lite, one of Bud Light’s biggest competitors, unveiled a campaign featuring actress and comedian Ilana Glazer, who notes the under-discussed history of women in beer brewing and the sexualized portrayal of women in advertising. “How did the industry pay homage to the founding mothers of beer? By putting us in bikinis,” Glazer says before introducing Miller Lite’s new program of buying up old sexy beer ads and turning them into compost. This compost will then be used to make hops (by women hop farmers, it’s implied), which will then be donated to female brewers to make beer. “Bad shit to good shit,” the ad proclaims. (The link in the commercial now redirects to the Miller Lite homepage, with no evidence of this actually being a campaign.) As it recirculated this week, the ad promoted a new round of outrage, mainly among those already upset by Bud Light’s advertising, and further centered big-name beer as fodder for the culture war.

Look, getting upset about a beer ad is stupid. But the Miller Lite spot is obnoxious, too. Is anyone really mad about bikini-clad women in beer ads? I’m certainly not. In 2021, it was a major trend for women to take sexy photos of themselves, edit them to look like beer ads, and give them to their boyfriends. Not only do plenty of women not want old beer posters destroyed, but we also want new ones so bad we’re making them ourselves. The Miller ad implies that if you have one of these old-school ads, you’re part of this alleged history of “bad shit.” If that’s you, even if you are totally in support of trans rights or honoring the tradition of women in beer brewing, why would you want to spend your money on a company that tells you you’re an out-of-touch scumbag?

Boycotts of these brands have seemingly impacted stock prices, but it remains far from the “go woke, go broke” story some are pushing. Still, these ads aren’t driving seismic waves of sales. If not to make more money, then why the fuck are these companies producing them?

One popular conservative theory is that major corporations are focused on improving their score in the Corporate Equality Index, a Human Rights Campaign project that ranks companies based on social responsibility, workplace culture benefits for LGBTQ+ employees, and non-discrimination policies supposedly favored by major monolithic investment firms like Blackrock that represent top shareholders. Alternatively, these controversies may be a modern test of the idea that all press is good. Maybe they’re even just purely well-intentioned attempts at inclusivity. In any case, the Miller Lite ad and quotes from Heinerscheid’s podcast appearance certainly suggest that companies believe beer should convey messaging beyond “this tastes great.”

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a brand like Bud Light using Mulvaney to promote their product before her audience, nor is it bad that Miller Lite wants to emphasize female brewers. The issue is the brands framing these moves as a major culture shift. In the case of Miller Lite, perhaps the only people talking about it are people on the right, but there’s no evidence that anyone seems to like the ad much at all. They’re also turning off those of us, leftists or otherwise, who don’t want to be labeled by what beer we drink or whether we like vintage bikini posters. And that’s what is so frustrating about the ads and the controversy they’ve generated—they’d be better off not existing. I’d know about these beers whether their names were blasted on the walls of a stadium or shown in glossy television commercials or not. Their brand recognition was already entirely solid. Now, however, we’re in this place where an advertisement for beer functions as a political litmus test that none of us asked to participate in. But that’s just what the culture war does. It transforms something easy and fun and lighthearted into something to fight over. Can’t I just enjoy my cheap, watery beer in peace?



via https://www.DMT.NEWS

Magdalene Taylor, Khareem Sudlow