Here’s to Beer, the new website from Anheuser-Busch and the Beer Institute that’s supposed to be a celebration of beer à la the got milk? campaign that speaks for the entire beer industry was unveiled this morning. And it can be summed up in three words: style over substance. It uses macromedia’s shockwave and flash technology exclusively to deliver what little content is there. That means that if there were anything useful there you couldn’t copy the text to a word processor or other application. Luckily that’s not a problem.
After entering your address to “insure” you’re over 21, the sound of a beer filling a glass begins followed by the sound of the television commercial scheduled to air during this afternoon’s Super Bowl. You can also see the video to the commercial in a small window on the website. It’s very slick and shows (supposedly) real people enjoying beer all over the world and toasting the audience by saying “cheers” in their native tongue. But what does that really mean? In the end it doesn’t really say anything particular about the beer. Those same people could be drinking anything — wine, liquor, soda pop, even Clamato — and still be having a good time. Nothing in the ad explains “why” beer is integral to their enjoyment. It’s hard to believe that’s the best these overpriced propagandists could come up with.
The website’s content is even more comical, at least to someone who’s been involved with better beer most of his life. The site is divided into five main groups: The Brew House, The Beer Archives, The Bistro, The Theater and The Tavern. Only the most basic of information is available about beer’s origins, how beer is made, how to cook or pair foor with beer. And it’s done with such laughable simplemindedness that it feels a little insulting. There’s a big emphasis on “fun” like mini-movies, beer quotes, screensavers and wallpaper. There’s really nothing whatsoever here that hasn’t been said before, and said much better, frankly. I can’t conceive of how a beer novice, even one with a high level of interest, would learn much of anything useful here. There is far more information available from the average craft brewer’s website, in even rudimentary books or by going to any decent beer festival. If you want to turn someone on to better beer, this is not the place to send them.
But to be fair, I never thought it would be. Even though this is Anheuser-Busch’s baby, their name is conspiculously absent from the proceedings. Their name does not appear once on the website. But that’s how propaganda works. To the average consumer who doesn’t follow the beer industry (a safe bet at 99.9% of the population) Here’s to Beer is the work of the Beer Institute alone which in my mind forever stains that organization. They’ve become the face of the Great and Terrible Wizard of Oz. Don’t look behind the curtain. Let’s click our glasses together three times. I want to go home.
NOTE: This post is a follow-up to Here’s to Beer — Here’s to to Making it Appear Relevant and Appealing