Like we don’t have enough problems. There’s the deficit problem. The healthcare problem. The energy problem. The global warming problem. Now I fear we have a joke problem. At least when it comes to advertising. And that has me nervously anticipating what we’re all going to see during the Super Bowl.
I acquired my latest worry looking at beer ads from around the world, with people from another country. And when we reviewed the U.S. work, I have to admit I was embarrassed.
Especially because this country spends a lot of money on beer advertising. So much so that it’s a reasonable measure of our ad humor. And except for a few rare instances, like the Heineken walk-in closet spot (itself an import), the Dos Equis campaign, and my own agency’s work for Corona, what’s out there that really makes you proud? That’s leveraging some kind of human truth?
Instead, what seems to pass for funny in beer ads these days are guys with tiny brains making ridiculous choices. The sub-moronic guy, impossibly surrounded by super-model caliber women, steps on a rake, is offered redemption, but steps on a rake again anyway. I thought the old rule in beer was the right one made you seem cool. Who wants to be these guys?
The challenge in beer advertising is there isn’t really anything truly important to say about the product. Jamaica’s Red Stripe smartly, and economically, proclaims, “It’s beer! Hooray beer!” That pretty much covers it. But the imposingly open canvas of the beer story is also an opportunity. You can waste it like most campaigns seem to do. Or you can use it to own something powerful, like Corona does with the idea of the getaway. Or to stand up for the little guy, like Miller High Life. Or, if you really want to consider the possibilities, look to the Zambian brand Mosi, which aspires to something even larger: beer as a tool for social change. In fact, a lot of the beer work from Africa is hugely inspiring and worth checking out for yourself.
I’m not arguing we should get all poignant about beer. But we can do better than Guy Moron. Look, watching someone light a fart on fire is a funny thing. It just is. But I don’t think it makes for funny advertising. That’s the filter we have to apply that other outlets for humor don’t. We have to make people laugh in the service of a relevant brand truth. Too much of our work isn’t smart enough to do the trick.
So as I steel myself for what has become the annual showcase for “the best” our industry has to offer, I hope I’ll be inspired by what I see, rather than lamenting the time and money wasted on a few laughs, quickly forgotten. It is, after all, the Super Bowl. Not the Stupor Bowl.