Somehow I missed this particular Budweiser commercial, a part of the “Lager Lessons” campaign that began sometime around the Super Bowl earlier this year. The first one, which I have seen many times, starred Ron Riggle from the Daily Show. The series was created by ad agency DDB.
The new one (at least to me) that I saw today while watching the Jets beat the Bills, starred Christine Scott Bennett as a bartender. She’s also been in at least two other similar spots, also as a bartender, entitled “The Perfect Pour” and “Delivery.” This one’s called “Commitment.” Watch it below, it’s only thirty seconds long.
Here’s what Bennett as the bartender says to the three stooges who belly up to her bar. “Budweiser has stayed true to the same recipe for over 130 years, through five generations. They could have cut corners, but they didn’t. Because they won’t sacrifice quality or great taste. 130 years. Now that’s commitment.”
Commitment, eh? No, what that actually is, quite simply, is a lie. It’s not puffing, it’s not hyperbole, it’s just not true. Back at the end of April — as most of us had been speculating for many years — August Busch III finally admitted in the Wall Street Journal that they had in fact changed the recipe for both Budweiser and Bud Light several times over the years. In and of itself, that’s not a big deal. Most, if not all, breweries are constantly tweaking their recipes trying to make them better, perfect, etc. But while the rest of the industry was openly doing so, A-B stubbornly continued to insist that their recipe had never changed, not once, since 1876. Nobody with a brain believed them, but that was the message they wanted to portray to the public. And finally the truth came out.
So why would they continue to insist that they’ve never changed their recipe in an ad, even after it was revealed that they had? That’s a good question, in my opinion, but with the company in transition I doubt we’ll get an answer to that one anytime soon. Still, it’s a galling reminder of what bothered me about the management style of the old A-B. I know advertising is all about creating perceptions and not about absolute truth, but when a company doggedly insists that something is black when it’s actually white — while at the same time suing everybody under the sun when they make any similar statements — then it’s doubly dishonest when they themselves don’t tell the truth. What kind of commitment are they making with such a blatant falsehood? Presumably most of their customers aren’t regular readers of the Wall Street Journal and even if they are, they’ve no doubt already forgotten about what A-B said last year. So in my opinion they’re inadvertently calling their customers too stupid to recognize the truth and see no problem whatsoever with lying to them to make themselves appear to be a better company than their competitors.
I certainly feel for the many good people who are losing heir jobs this month as InBev reduces costs so they can pay the high costs of acquisition. But this lingering lager lie is a final reminder to me that A-B was the bully of beer industry schoolyard.