This Budweiser Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA Isn’t An Anti-Drunk-Driving PSA

Budweiser just released their 2016 Super Bowl commercial four days ahead of the actual game, as now seems to be commonplace. The commercial itself, labelled as a drunk driving PSA, stars Helen Mirren telling any would-be drunk drivers that they are, basically, the lowest scum on the earth. The problem is, this isn’t an anti-drunk-driving PSA.

Have a look for yourself.

The commercial starts with Helen Mirren saying, “Ooh, my beer, lovely” after she’s been served with a Budweiser. So the first thing the ad is hitting the viewer with is beer. And not just any beer, but a fresh, sweet, sweet, frosty Budweiser. The King Of Beers, lest you forget.

Mrs. Mirren goes on to make some very frank declarations about how dumb and useless you are if you drink and drive. And I agree with all of them. Drunk driving is a very serious problem that doesn’t get nearly enough attention or have nearly harsh enough consequences.

However, I can’t help but feel that most people watching this ad will agree, too. No one ever comes out in support of drunk driving. So it’s not like Budweiser is doing anything notable here. They’re just doing what they know they have to do every once in a while, as one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers. But I can’t remember watching an “anti-drunk driving” PSA that so actively advertises beer. In fact, this drunk driving PSA makes me thirsty for a beer.

Forget the fact that Helen Mirren gets all matter-of-fact and tells potential drunk drivers that the whole world will thank them for not drinking and driving. That’s the middle bit of the ad. People are going to spend more time thinking, “Hey! It’s Helen Mirren gettin’ sassy” than they will actually listening to what she’s saying. They’ll see the perfectly lit bottle of Budweiser sitting next to a deliciously styled burger and fries. They’ll notice the beautifully staged pub she’s sitting in. And they’ll most certainly remember that this drunk driving PSA starts and ends with Helen Mirren talking about how great cold, fresh beer is.

This is a beer ad camouflaged as a PSA. It’s basically saying, “You shouldn’t drink and drive, but you should definitely drink. Isn’t beer delicious?” The ad features no suggestions for how you might avoid drinking and driving, it just says you’re an idiot if you drink and drive. No shit. How about giving people a reminder to call a cab, or a friend, or take the bus, or even walk home? You might plant that seed in their mind. Instead, this ad just tries to be memorable by having a famous woman with an English accent say some pithy things. All while enjoying a beer. Yes, that definitely makes me want to drive and not drink.

This is a PSA for Budweiser and how awesome it is. The company is down with Helen Mirren. She even drinks it! Maybe even in real life! You should drink it too! That’s why this alleged anti-drunk driving message ends with her holding a Budweiser saying, “Cheers. Ah, nice and cold.”

I don’t know about you, but I could really go for a beer.

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Drown your sorrows in puppies

Let’s talk about this year’s Super Bowl (aka Big Game for the unaffiliated) commercial for Budweiser. It’s a lot like last year’s spot. It has a puppy in it.

Not only does it have a puppy, it’s got a real “tug at your heart strings” vibe going on. Much like the commercial from last year. Both ads leave me wondering, just what kind of beer is Budweiser? They call themselves the King of Beers™. But this isn’t a beer ad. It’s an internet video with a puppy in it. Oh, and it has the hash tag #BestBuds. Get it? Like Bud. As in Budweiser. (The beer.)

It already has over two million views. I’m sure the brand and their agency (Anomaly) are thrilled with that number. I’m sure they also knew exactly what they were doing when they decided to make another ad about a puppy. But I have a couple of problems with this ad.

One, it doesn’t tell me anything about the beer. Sure, it’s Budweiser, so you could argue they’ve said it all. Or you could argue that with the increasing rise in popularity of craft beer, maybe they should be bother to tell people why someone might want to drink Budweiser.

My second issue is that this doesn’t even feel on target or on brand for Budweiser. When I think of Bud, I think of an all-American quarter back pounding back a few after a hard day’s footballin’. Or maybe an alcoholic Vietnam War veteran. Or somewhere in between. Regardless, I don’t see any of those types caring too much about the plight of a lost puppy. If anything, I think they would be put off by this ad. It doesn’t have anything to it. No sports. No humour. No America!

Instead, they’re trying to make people teary eyed. I don’t understand beer brands making emotional ads. I drink beer because I don’t want to feel anything. The one thing I take away from this ad is that if I stay home on my farm drinking alone long enough, my alcoholism will get so bad that my only remaining friend will be a dog. If Budweiser wants to connect with me emotionally, they should make an ad about jealousy, bitterness and crippling self-doubt.

This ad is just the worst kind of pandering bullshit that some people believe passes for a brand message. Actually, I’ll agree with that. Because I don’t see how this does anything but say Budweiser is watered-down dog water.

If there’s anything positive to take away, it’s this Go Daddy parody commercial/promotional stunt:

Your divorced family isn’t blended

I’m a child of divorce. I have been as long as I can remember, since my parents split up when I was three. It’s a big part of who I am, for better and for worse. Being a child of divorce will affect you no matter who you are. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. What I don’t understand is the seemingly recent push to call divorced families “blended.” What does that even mean? I guarantee whoever came up with that term has parents that are still married to each other.

“Blended” implies that families coming together after divorce, through remarriage and otherwise, do so seamlessly. And I just don’t think that’s true. Divorce isn’t easy. Divorce is hard. Divorce sucks. Why do we need to pretend that it’s not?

Take a look at this ad from Honey Maid about a “blended” family. As a child of divorce — and, full disclosure, as an ad copywriter — it drives me up the wall.

This ad seems to be saying that divorce is perfectly normal. Children with divorce shouldn’t feel like they’re any different than the other kids at school. Well, guess what? They are different. To pretend otherwise is really unfair to the child. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay that your parents aren’t together anymore. And it’s okay to be unhappy about it.

I get that this ad is trying to say that being a kid of divorce is okay, but it’s also essentially celebrating divorce. That’s what gets me. This is not something to be celebrated. It is an extremely hard, devastating and life-altering thing. People absolutely recover from it and build new, happy lives and families, but they sure as shit don’t do it with the help of the wholesomeness of some Honey Maid crackers.

I have four parents. That’s how I see it. My two biological parents and my two stepparents. But that doesn’t mean I have a blended family. It means I have two families. And these families have pretty clearly defined lines, in my mind. We don’t all get together and have picnics on the beach and celebrate our blendedness with smoothies and other allegorical snacks. Each family has their own get-togethers, events, dinners, problems, memories, etc. That’s just the way it is. And, as I keep repeating myself, that’s totally okay. It is different from families with parents who are still together, but it’s still okay. That’s what kids of divorce should be told.

I’d love to see an ad that documents this kind of reality for divorced families. Not cherry picking one where both sides get along and everyone can stand to be around each other and everything is peachy and suitable for a weeknight media buy. This ad is based on a false insight. Sure, both sides in some divorced families get along. But most don’t. And I’m not just basing that on my own experience.

People get divorced for a lot of reasons. A big one of those is that they don’t really want to see the other person again. They don’t divorce with the goal of meeting someone new and then keeping their ex spouse around as their best bud. They move apart. They separate. They don’t want to be together anymore.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a new term for what people do when they divorce: they unblend.