March 23, 2019
This Bud’s for Her: Beer Giant Celebrates Women with Updated Ads
In a tip of the hat to International Women’s Day, Budweiser dusted off some of its old-school advertising, recreated with a more modern sensibility. Many described the side-by-side adverts as “jarring” or “very telling.” But the end result for Budweiser was a strong wave of people congratulating the brand for taking the lead on this social issue in their industry.
While, in advertising, enjoying a cold beer is an image as American as apple pie, the marketing for these products over the decades has tended to focus on one market: adult men. From subservient spouses to the Swedish Bikini Team, this has led to a series of popular tropes that tend to be anathema to some modern sensibilities.
More recent advertising has played to humor and inclusivity, a spirit of fun, even when mimicking the standard hyper-masculine messaging. And, as the Millennial generation trended more toward craft beers and wines, major beer companies had to find a way to connect with a generation with no interest in the advertising techniques which worked in the past.
Timing and Connection
One of the factors that made Bud’s new gambit work was the timing. The company released the parallel ads on International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to empowering and celebrating women in all aspects of life and culture.
The decision to juxtapose the older ads with their more hyper-masculine targeted messaging served as an admission by Budweiser that they had done things differently in the past, and that they had every intention of changing.
Their vehicle for this message was full-page print advertising in major US newspapers including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. One such pairing included a 1962 print ad which offered this caption: “Big appetite … dinner is almost ready and it sure smells good. Loosen your tie and enjoy your Budweiser” along with an image depicting a woman leaning over the stove under the watchful eye of her husband.
The counterpoint ad depicts a woman with her dog enjoying some takeout food, with this caption: “Time to unwind… It’s Friday, your favorite takeout just got here. Crack open a cold Bud and enjoy some time to yourself.”
The first ad spoke of a different time, when men were in control and women were often depicted as existing to serve their needs and whims. The latter portrays an independent single woman who has a life and a mind of her own.
The other ads conveyed similar contrasting themes, creating an easily understood comparison of what sold “yesterday,” and what connects with an audience today. The lesson Budweiser is telegraphing here is that norms and expectations change, and brand messaging needs to shift along with these trends or brands will find themselves left behind.