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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

AB InBev Targets Trump?

AB InBev's latest entry in their "hard way" commercial series is ... interesting.

Leave aside the lame myth-making and execrable history. As a story, it's trite and embarrassing. But the text is not the point here--the subtext is. As this immigrant struggles to make his American dream come true, he confronts hostile nativists who tell him "You're not wanted here," and "Go back home." He rides the river with a black man (this is roughly the time of the Civil War). His journey ends as he founds a brewery that will one day sell the world's best-selling beer, the classic American success story--immigrants bringing their skills and talents to our country to make it a richer, more varied, and vibrant place.

Completely coincidental timing, you know.
A marketing executive at Budweiser said the ad is "super relevant today," but he also cautioned that the commercial is not meant to be taken as commentary on the current political climate in the United States.
Of course it's not.

I would love to argue that ABI is a company committed to social justice, but there's a more likely motive here. Anheuser-Busch InBev is a multinational company (its awkward name points to the three heads that still guide things from New York, Belgium, and Brazil) for whom nationalism is bad for business. Tariffs are bad for business. Blocking the free movement of employees across national borders is bad for business. Working up an ad that exalts the history of European migration to the US is a way to both criticize current protectionist policies as well as sending a gauzy, pro-immigrant message to which most Americans will respond well to. It's a warning shot and a bit of Americana served up in a frosty mug.

Still, it's yet another example of the way in which politics have become so dominant that they increasingly define everything--including a simple glass of beer. Whether the politics are naked and raw or submerged and subtle, politics saturate our consciousness. In any other era, this would be a stupid bit of nostalgia bound together by marketing gloss and revisionist history; today it's a sharp (but deniable) critique of a 12-day-old presidency. I am fascinated to see what the reaction will be. Your thoughts?


  1. Careful use of words by the marketing executive, but I would like to know *when* the idea for the commercial was hatched. Of course it bothers me that it doesn't stick to the facts, but I don't think the public will care. And it would be great to be sitting in a Rust Belt tavern on Sunday to report when viewers there think. I hope some publication(s) dispatch a reporter.

    Meanwhile, I'll be holding out for Lady Gaga to do a Phil Ochs song at halftime.

  2. Of course, free trade is in the best interest of Capital. It has created the environment of endless amalgamation which has produced monoliths like ABI-SabMiller and crippled labor power.

  3. It is entirely appropriate and beautifully post-modern that this should be brought to you by the makers of "America: The Beer."

    We are in bizarre times.

  4. " ... a bit of Americana served up in a frosty mug." Nice. And worlds are definitely intersecting. (Your writing lives here, too, my friend. I like it.) I would also love to know the timeline of the hatch.
    Great piece.