I don't watch much football (as far as I'm concerned, the game is a cure for insomnia). But my husband watches playoff games, and yesterday he watched the game in Green Bay. (Packers versus some other team. The other team won.) I was in the room, but I was reading the Sunday newspapers and not paying much attention to the game. Until an Anheuser-Busch commercial came on.
"Hey," he said. "You need to watch this!"
I watched the commercial in question. And then I put down the newspaper and watched the rest of the game, waiting for more of the A-B ads to air. I don't know the final score of the game, but I can tell you ALL about those Anheuser-Busch commercials.
The theme of this particular campaign (which A-B rolled out just a few weeks ago) is "The Great American Lager." It's a bit of a departure from the usual A-B ads in that it features a guy in a suit who does nothing but talk. No farting Clydesdales. No cute dogs or animated frogs. No babes in bathing suits. Just a guy talking about the company's oldest brand, Budweiser. You can read some press coverage of this new ad campaign here and here. (And probably plenty of other places as well; just google.)
So what was the guy saying? If you've read my book Ambitious Brew, his words sounded, um, familiar. The company pioneered the use of refrigerator cars. Check. Lager's translucence leaves no room for error. Check. Bud is a superb example of a national classic, the American-style lager. Check. And so on. Large chunks of the script sounded like they'd been lifted straight out of the book.
Sure, a few words had been changed here and there so that the text sounded more conversational -- but the gist of it is all there in chapter two. In that chapter, which is based on substantive and original research, I argued that a handful of nineteenth-century brewers, most notably A-B and Pabst, developed a unique American style of lager. That Anheuser-Busch (and Pabst) was a prime mover in the shift away from Bavarian lagers and to American-style beers. I also argue that Budweiser was, and is, a pioneering masterpiece of this particular style of beer. Even people who hate Bud (and A-B) have to admit that it's not easy to achieve the kind of consistency that A-B achieves with every batch of Bud.
I hasten to add that I'm NOT accusing A-B of stealing my work. It's not like the people there didn't know all of this already.
But it's almost as if the book, written by an outsider with no connection to the company, served as a kind of affirmation that freed them to promote Bud in this specific way, with this specific, coherent narrative that, well, comes right outta chapter two. Or maybe my narrative worked as a kind of light bulb: "Oh! We've now got this other story we can tell about Budweiser." (And yes, for those of you who are wondering, many A-B executives have read the book. Carefully and thoroughly.)
Soooo.........for the first time in my life, I'm planning to watch the Super Bowl. I have no idea who's playing, but I can't wait to see the commercials.