Saturday, March 19, 2011

Man DOWN! (Kissing the ass of the crappy beer drinker)

There are few things more pointless to complain about than advertising, especially beer advertising, but every once in a while, a commercial riles me to the point of distraction, and talking about it is the only way to cleanse my mental palate.

Such is the case with a current Miller Genuine Draft 64 commercial entitled, “Toast.” A member of a wedding party seated at the head table is vainly attempting to get the guests’ attention by tapping his glass of wine with his knife. Noticing the wan sound, a cocky blonde groomsman to his left asks what he’s drinking.

“64 Calories of Pinot Grigio,” he responds awkwardly (I don’t think I’ve ever felt the urge to point out the caloric content of any beverage in any context, but I understand the need for speedy exposition, so I’ll go with it).

“Yeaaah,” the other guy sneers, handing off his bottle of MGD 64. “No self-respecting drink should make a sound like that.” The groomsman tries again, and as he taps his knife on the beer bottle, a much louder tink echoes through the banquet hall, garnering the attention of all.

The implication here is that the wine drinker is a pussy—especially after his speech subsequently bombs—while the hale fellow downing the MGD 64 is a man’s man. Aside from the asinine implication that wine—even Pinot Grigio—is not a worthy choice of wedding beverage, all this commercial proves is that a beer BOTTLE has more mass than the relatively thin wine glass. If the impotent (presumably) groomsman were drinking coffee, he’d have wiped the floor with the MGD 64 drinker.

But the whole point of light beer commercials (and MGD 64 is just light beer with a more masculine sounding name marketed to guys) is to try to make the drinkers of the watered-down brew feel like they’re drinking real beer, and thus are real men. It’s a pathetic, transparent ploy, but the sad fact is, as someone who serves lots and lots… and lots… of light (and “lite”) beer to overgrown frat boys, it works.

Taste in all things being subjective, I’ll still make the daring statement that from a savory standpoint, light beer sucks. The only reason to choose a Diet Bud (as I sometimes call it) over a “Bud Heavy” (which I never, EVER call it) is because you’re worried about your waistline. There’s a time and a place for such concerns, and when you’re talking about the difference between actually enjoying a tasty, hoppy brew and sucking down a pale, watery semblance of same, Beer O’Clock is not it. Have a salad instead of fries, or a glass of water instead of a Coke. Life’s too short to compromise on the truly important things. And I’m only being slightly sarcastic.

Miller Lite’s equally-grating “Man Up” commercials pretend that theirs taste better than other light beers, but that kind of qualitative claim isn’t held up to any legal standard. In this series of ads, ├╝ber-hot female bartenders viciously mock male customers who don’t care how their light beer tastes (and carry man-purses or buy antiques). What makes those commercials teeth-gratingly annoying isn’t the bitchy bartender, it’s that if you’re going to tell a patron to “man up,” you’re not going to suggest a different light beer; you’re going to slap a Guinness and a two shots of Knob Creek in front of him, down one of the shots, then charge him for everything.

But, in another aspect of advertising that annoys me to no end, there’s no gender swap version of the “Man Up” ads, and not just because there’s no feminine version of the phrase (although I’d argue that “Man Up” could work in this context just because I think women should drink like men, too). We’re not going to see a commercial where the bitchy, self-entitled fashion victim is berated by the hunky bartender for having no light beer preference because (a) it’s somehow acceptable for girls to choose drinks by caloric content alone and (b) funny commercials cannot hinge the gag on men demeaning women.

The other risible aspect of the “Man Up” ads is how they encourage the kind of frat boy mentality that leads to nonconformists getting the shit beaten out of them after last call. While I’m certainly not going to defend dudes who carry so-called “Man Purses,” or 90% of the people trying to squeeze into skinny jeans, making fun of them in the context of a Miller Lite ad just feels… dickish. Which is, I’m sure, just what they were going for. Advertising isn’t stupid; it’s a carefully calculated science, and these people know to whom they’re talking and how to talk to them.

A similar case of demographic ass-kissing is seen in the Keystone Light commercials featuring the “always smooth” Keith Stone, a facially-scruffed, trucker cap-wearing dude who hangs out in convenience stores munching ten-foot long meat snacks and rescuing comely damsels-in-distress. These ads are mildly amusing, even though their goal is to affirm that beer-bellied white trash guys are completely justified in wearing their “No Fat Chicks” shirts under their puffy vests. The mere fact that Keystone Light is the official beer of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (I don’t even know what that IS!) instantly negates any and all possibilities of “smoothness.”

But most beer commercials can be boiled down to simple Pavlovian response. COORS = BOOBS. CORONA = BEACH. PABST BLUE RIBBON = ANNOYING HIPSTER. Okay, so that last one isn’t officially marketed yet, but give it time.

Again bowing to subjectivity, the beer commercials that offend me the least tend to be for the beers I enjoy the most, and those commercials are usually about the taste of the beer rather than the image they carry. Sam Adams actually explains how their distinctive brews get their flavors; The Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man in the World” ads have a smart balance of parody and patronization. Guinness commercials need only display close-up beauty shots of the heavenly concoction settling in a sweaty pint glass to get its connoisseurs’ mouths watering.

Yet I still pine for the as-yet unrealized beer commercial that would put the male light beer drinker in proper context:

OPEN ON: CHAD, FRESH OFF WORK FROM HIS JOB IN FINANCE PUSHES HIS HAIR INTO HIS PARTY-TIME MINI-FAUXHAWK AND PUSHES THROUGH THE CROWD AT THE BAR, WAVING HIS CREDIT CARD, TRYING TO GET THE ATTENTION OF THE BUSY RED-HEADED BARTENDER, JOSIE.
CHAD: Yo, I need a beer!
JOSIE IGNORES CHAD AND CONTINUES TO WAIT ON THE QUEUE OF CUSTOMERS AHEAD OF HIM.
CHAD: What’s this chick’s problem, anyway? YO!!!
JOSIE SHOOTS A STINK-EYE IN CHAD’S DIRECTION WHILE WAITING ON SOMEONE ELSE. SHE FINISHES THE TRANSACTION AND FINALLY GETS TO CHAD.
JOSIE: What can I get you?
CHAD: Whattya got light in a bottle?
JOSIE: Well, if you’d have taken five seconds to survey your surroundings, you’d have noticed a display of all of our bottled beers right behind me, including a handful of tasteless light beers, any of which I’m sure will serve the purpose of getting you wasted enough to justify date raping whatever superficial bimbo impressed enough with your enormous clanking gold watch to follow you home to your art-and-book-free condo, while simultaneously giving you less to worry about when you “hit the gym” tomorrow morning before returning to your soulless, money-grubbing career where you’ll look at porn at your desk and rally your boys to go somewhere to watch the game and grab some ‘za tomorrow night.
CHAD: (Pause) Gimme a Miller Lite.
JOSIE: Did you want to start a tab?
CHAD: No, just run it.
JOSIE: We have a $20 minimum on cards.
CHAD: Whatever.
ANNOUNCER: MILLER LITE! Your taste in everything else is lousy, so what the fuck.

Last Call!

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can someone please make this commercial, please?

Bob Fingerman said...

Good stuff, as ever, Karlton. As an effete, non-beer-drinking (reluctant) gym attendee, I shall refrain from ever contemplating calories when making beverage choices in your company. That said, lite beer ads are always a dick-slap in the face of good taste, masculinity and sense. But I'm not a real man, anyway, as I find all beer repulsive. Wotta queermo I is.