Beer Commercials Aren't What They Used To BeCommentary • Entertainment • Opinion • products • trends • advertising • alcohol • tv • ISSUE 37•17 • May 9, 2001 By Ed McIntosh Ed McIntosh In these modern times, the concept of workmanship, of taking pride in one's craft, has gone the way of Nagel paintings, the Thompson Twins, and Vision Street Wear. And nowhere is this more evident than in the sorry state of our beer commercials. What? You say the beer commercials of today are just as good as those of the past? Nonsense! Peel back the scales from your eyes and gaze unblinking into the gaping maw of inarguable truth. Let us go back to the 1980s, the Golden Age of beer advertising, to see how far we have fallen. Take the gloriously whimsical Miller Lite campaigns. In one classic spot, comedian Rodney Dangerfield is called upon to win a celebrity bowling tournament. His team implores him, "We only need one pin, Rodney!" thereby setting up a moment of high drama. Can lovable loser Dangerfield pull off the seemingly simple task under intense pressure from his middle-aged cronies? Our hero proceeds to roll the ball dead-center down the middle of the lane and, though it appears he is headed for a triumphant strike, in a surprising turn of events, the ball bounces harmlessly off the head pin, toppling not a one and losing the game. This defies our expectations, for we know that a bowling ball is a good deal heavier than a bowling pin. The resultant response of the viewer is one of delighted laughter and merriment. Now, compare this bit of levity to the recent Budweiser campaign featuring the talking frogs and lizards. It is common knowledge that lizards and frogs can't talk, so this freakish defiance of nature's laws provokes a confused reaction. Where did these lizards learn the English language? Where did they pick up the regional dialect? And since when do amphibians of any sort consume beer? How could the producers of these ads expect the public to buy into the ludicrous premise of beer-swilling iguanas with powers of speech? Have the higher minds at Budweiser forgotten their own Spuds MacKenzie, the beer-drinking "party animal" of the fraternity Tappa Kegga Bud? Spuds never uttered a single syllable and went on to become an internationally recognized icon of the go-go '80s. Who, meanwhile, cares a whit about the Bud frogs? Nary a soul. And what about human personalities? In the '80s we had Dangerfield, Bob "I Must Be In The Front Row" Uecker, Bubba Smith, Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Joe "Python" Piscopo, and pool-player extraordinaire Steve Mizerak. And what have we today? Those faceless shills who prattle "Wazzup" as they remain lethargically splayed on the davenport. Can our beer-commercial standards sink any lower? And what sort of catchphrase is "Wazzup"? It is not even a proper English word! In my day, the slogans were at least complete sentences, like the poignant, "It just doesn't get any better than this." But even phrases that weren't full sentences were infectiously catchy. Sports enthusiasts of today still chant the "Tastes Great, Less Filling" slogan of the '70s and '80s. Meanwhile, "Wazzup" has already been supplanted in Budweiser ads by the shamelessly derivative "What are you doing?" Appalling! Most importantly, to paraphrase Pete Seeger, where have all the hot chicks gone? In the glory days of the beer commercial, we had the Swedish bikini team and the Amazonian babes playing volleyball using the Rocky Mountains as a net. All the recent Corona ads offer is a faceless woman lounging in a beach chair propped up by cell phone. As a male viewer, I want to be reassured that drinking a certain beer brand will make me desirable to supermodels and other unattainable women. Once upon a time, the simple act of cracking open an MGD or an Old Milwaukee held the promise of scantily clad young ladies mobbing a man to bathe in his alcohol-tainted essence, with strains of Eric Clapton's reworked "After Midnight" playing in the background. Sadly, an entire generation of boys is now growing up unaware that there exist harsh deserts that, at the twist of a bottle cap, turn into snow-covered party paradises, complete with bikini-clad sex kittens and caravans of 18-wheelers fully stocked with ice-cold Bud. Hear my plea, beer-commercial directors. We can fix this problem. Next time, instead of making another Coors ad with a faux web-browser look, try putting that creativity to constructive use. Give us Pete Sampras or Norm Macdonald spouting a few zingers. Or, better yet, a fraternity pool party with two guys shotgunning a couple of beers, only to be attacked by the U.S. Women's Naked Soccer team. Only then will our beer commercials once again achieve greatness.