Monday’s ad is for Oland’s Export Ale, from 1966. The Oland Brewery was located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada and their Export Ale was a popular brand in Eastern Canada after its introduction in the 1920s. The Oland family sold their brewery to Labatt’s in 1971. The Oland’s also founded Moosehead, which different members of the family still own and operate. The 1960s illustration in this ad looks great, though I’m not sure if it’s meant to appear as if it’s clear — presaging Zima — or that it brings more color to the woman’s cheeks, thereby increasing her attractiveness, even though she, technically, is the beer holder.
Sunday’s ad is for Heineken, from I’m not sure when. It looks like it may be older, but it could just as easily be a newer at playing on the nostalgia when most breweries delivered by horse and wagon. I like the bright colors of the ad and even though they’re not Clydesdales, they’re still some fine-looking horses.
Saturday’s ad is for Stella Artois, from 2006. This is not a particularly old ad, but it’s meant to look older, or at least more classic, than it is. I really like the visuals of it, if not the beer itself. But then I love flags and am an amateur vexillologist. I visited the Stella Artois brewery in Leuven last year, with a large group of beer judges, and it holds the record for “worst beer tour” ever. Not the longest (that was a couple of days later) but they kept us sweating in hot, confined area, restricted our movement like they were afraid we were spies and generally treated us like children. Oh, and I later found out they thought we were rude, which is hilarious. I had also hoped that at the source, I’d finally understand what all the fuss is abut the beer. Nope, it still didn’t taste very good, at least to me.
Earlier this week, I read in AdAge that Budweiser Pulls Puppies From Super Bowl Ad Plans for the very sensible reason that they weren’t terribly effective. As AdAge notes, “as cute as they are, the puppies apparently don’t sell beer.”
I also read in Bloomberg that ABI was going to shift their advertising focus away from the male-dominated imagery that they’ve employed for decades, objectifying and alienating one-half of the world’s consumers, in an effort to win over female beer drinkers. “‘Objectification of women is going away,’ said Jorn Socquet, AB InBev’s vice president of marketing for the U.S.” in the Bloomberg article, What ‘Gender Friendly’ Ads Look Like to Big Beer.
That strategy has created a demographic where only about one-quarter of women drink their beer, yet when they were riding high they didn’t seem to care at all how they treated the mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and girlfriends of the people who bought their beer. Despite loud and vocal criticism of those practices for years and years, only now that their sales are slipping have they seemed to have noticed and decided they should “win back women.” To do this, they’re going to air an ad during the Super Bowl “built around the idea that coming together over a frosty Bud Light can help solve the world’s problems, including unequal pay.”
But can one ad, or even a series of ads, undo decades of tone deaf ads that were, and continue to be, downright awful to women? And it’s not like things have gotten much better in the more enlightened 21st century. If anything, attacks on women have increased in politics, business and in the media.
As The Atlantic wonders, Are TV Ads Getting More Sexist? and Business Insider notes that These Modern Ads Are Even More Sexist Than Their ‘Mad Men’ Era Counterparts. And more specific to beer, Vinepair makes a compelling case that 13 Sexist Beer Ads Show How Little Has Changed Since the 1950s. There’s an entire Tumblr devoted to Bad Beer Ads for Women. There’s no shortage of material to show that it’s not really gotten any better in my lifetime.
But if corporations are people, they are people with convenient Alzheimer’s Disease. They’ll undoubtedly try to convince women that they’ve had this change of heart because it’s right thing to do (and even though it might be) but the truth is that it only has to do with profit. They’ll hope that no one will remember how bad, and how consistently sexist, their ads have been for decades upon decades, right up to the present day.
Fortune magazine weighed in with their take on the new plan, with how Beer Companies Are Courting Women, and here’s how you know that they don’t really get it and it will fail.
In order to win over women, the beer companies are designing more colorful packaging and creating sweeter drinks, like the Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita. But taste isn’t necessarily the problem — MillerCoors and AB InBev are focusing on the social aspect of beer, too.
I love how the big brewers always think that changing up the packaging is the way to woo customers. The idea that women will only respond to “more colorful packaging” and only want “sweeter drinks” is laughably naive and almost criminally insulting. And this is, remember, them trying to “court women,” a similarly insulting turn of phrase. How many times have we seen beer companies try fruitier, sweeter beers and pink packaging to entice women? How often has it worked? The now defunct Beer West magazine had a good overview of such failed attempts in Have You Really Come A Long Way, Baby? How beer is(n’t) marketed to women.
To illustrate that it’s not just Anheuser-Busch InBev wearing blinders, MillerCoors’ senior marketing insights director Britt Dougherty opined that they’re “going through a feminization of culture” as a way of saying the days of “airing ads that objectify women” are over. I’ll believe it when I see it. I suspect that as soon as this doesn’t prove as successful as they want, they’ll return to the tried and true male-oriented advertising that’s been their bread and butter my entire lifetime.
Sexism, perhaps more than any of the destructive -isms, makes no sense to me. I’m male, and it makes no sense. Why do so many men feel they have to keep down women? Every one of us has a female mother. Most of us have sisters, aunts, and daughters. Why would we ever want to keep them from succeeding? I know there’s at least some religious reasons for it, but even that can’t account for all of it. Why would you voluntarily keep you mother, wife or daughter from being able to climb as high as they want to in life? Why would you harass, objectify or otherwise insult every other female, just because they’re female? I honestly don’t understand it. How can you hate your mother? How can you hate your wife? How can you hate your daughters? Because hatred toward some women, by using sexism, objectification and other insults, is hatred toward all women, your own family included.
And yet it seems to be rampant, and growing, in our society. It should be a thing of the past, a relic, but as Gamergate makes abundantly clear, there are males in our society who hate women to the point that they want to do them actual physical harm for saying things they don’t like, disagree with or just having an opinion. That seems nuts, but perhaps more confusing is that we don’t do more to put a stop to it as a society. Can there really be enough men who are deaf and blind to what’s happening, or do they secretly agree with them or just not give a shit so long as they’re on top of the perceived hierarchy? I have a daughter who I want to grow up in a world where she can do whatever she wants, follow every opportunity available to her and live her life to the fullest, exactly the same as her brother, my son, is able to do. And as it stands now, that seems like it’s too much for society to bear, that true gender equality remains as elusive as the end of racism. Why the fuck should that be the case? If we can’t even erase it from the beer industry, which ought to know better, what chance have we for the wider world? So while I think this is the right step for the big beer companies, they haven’t shown themselves to take any action except ones that help their bottom line. And while that is to be expected (being a problem with the institution of corporations) you’d like to think that even male executives have women in their lives that would make such decisions increasingly difficult, yet so far that remarkably hasn’t been the case.
Maybe if we celebrated our similarities — like enjoying beer — instead of pandering to our differences, that would be a good start. So yeah, let’s keep sexism out of beer advertising, out of beer culture and out of the breweries themselves. We’re all just people, beer-loving people.
Thursday’s ad is for Brand Bier, which was established in 1430. If you’re going to pick a brand name for your beer, Brand seems like a pretty good way to go. Brand Bier is still a going concern, and is the oldest brewer in the Netherlands. As for this ad, I’m not sure when it is from, though given how generic it is, it could really be from any time. I’m also not sure if the dozen full beer glasses are meant to spell out anything or otherwise represent some shape.
Wednesday’s ad is for Heineken’s Bierbrouwerij Maatschappij, which was established in 1873. A few years before, 1864, Gerard Adriaan Heineken bought the Haystack Brewery, later changing its name to HBM, which essentially means Heineken’s brewery or beer company. I suspect this ad is from the late 1800s, as it resembles ones from that time period.
Tuesday’s ad is for Stegmaier Brewing Co., from between 1933-1945. The “Home of Gold Medal Beer” was Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I love these grand illustrations of breweries, testaments to industrialization, this one was a postcard. I’m not sure why there’s a passenger train chugging by, maybe that’s how the brewery executives commute to and from work?
Sunday’s ad is for Gulpen Bier, a pilsner, another one from maybe the 1950s or 60s. I believe it’s a Dutch beer, and the tagline appears to translate to “rich in taste, rich in tradition.” I like that their choice of pairing is nuts and salami, not that it wouldn’t taste good, but surely they could have come up with something better.