I refer, of course, to Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer, two comedy and movie stars who got paired up last February as conservatively dressed representatives of the “Bud Light Party.”
“My fellow Americans,” Schumer says from a podium, in the campaign opener for the light beer that broke during the Super Bowl. “They say we’re a nation divided. They say we disagree on everything,” she says, in an attempt to acknowledge our fractured political state.
But Rogen, by her side in a blazer and tie, interrupts to say that it’s just not true, and that we as a country actually agree on a lot. Like Paul Rudd: “Everybody loves Paul Rudd!”
Certainly, the Paul Rudd joke was random and unexpected, but it landed pretty well; it was funnier than the quasi-desperate “We have a really big caucus/you should see our caucus” ending that Amy Schumer had to pull off.
Meanwhile, in her Barbara-Bush-style oversized pearls, and “Veep”-style tight blue dress, Schumer plays the smart one. Rogen, who is supposed to be really dumb, although he wears glasses, quotes from a stirring monologue in “Independence Day.” (“We will not go quietly into the night!")
The 60-second intro had its moments, but overall, even that initial big-budget, pumped-up effort, playing on the biggest ad stage of the year, came off as forced and awkward.
Here’s the trouble with using election parody stuff in advertising: It’s already been done to death.
Add to that the idea that as Americans, we’re already tired, depressed — and even bored — by the overwhelming amounts of actual presidential election news coverage that we’ve had to endure for the last year. Sadly, these days, the real thing has achieved its own parody. No spoof could possibly measure up.
With the additional burden of having to sell real stuff from those fake hustings, these ads become a compound cliché from the start, coming off as dated, strained, and deeply inauthentic. Or they necessarily trivialize the issues that people care about for the sake of a joke that doesn’t fly.
That’s especially the case with this Bud Light Party campaign, which is also saddled with the burden of selling mass quantities of low-flavor beer.
As most people know by now, Anheuser-Busch is now a Brazilian/Belgian-owned company. And its marketing attempt to own “patriotism,” by changing the packaging and labeling of its Budweiser brand to “America” through the November election, has been amazingly tone-deaf and ham-handed.
One glance at the rows of the heavily discounted, red-white-and-blue cases of “America” stacked up on shelves in Walgreen’s, and you see how the company has turned its otherwise legit 6-pack into a poignant sad-sack. Even the Pop-Tarts in the next aisle are mocking the beers for their fakeness.
Still, this Bud Light campaign is done by Wieden & Kennedy, who are otherwise known for great creative work. And by hiring the stars of “Train Wreck” and “Knocked Up” as spokespeople, the creators were going for something a little more conceptually sophisticated, that would instantly link Bud Light to pop culture.
But Schumer and Rogen, both great performers, are girdled into this dumbed-down political straightjacket, and it’s mostly painful to watch.
Subsequent spots have tried to hit on important topics.
For example, a commercial that was created in honor of LGBT Pride Month celebrates same-sex marriage, a clearly charged issue for a conservative beer company to take on.
Corporations are not social pioneers. Most glom on to “cause marketing” to get attention and show their “values” — but mostly only if it will help their bottom lines. The spot was released by Ellen DeGeneres on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. It did run in its own slot on television once, only in New York and California.
As was reflected in the timid media buy, the bit was so generic and comically self-protective (just making fun of big weddings in general, and saluting “Steve and Greg”) that it canceled itself out. Thus, in trying to be so safe, it perhaps annoyed or offended would-be drinkers on both sides of the issue.
Another Bud Light Party spot was released
earlier this week, in support of equal pay for women: Who could argue about that?
Amy and Seth are shown in a bar, in their standard formal, too-tight presidential election-wear, sitting on stools at a high table.
The redesigned, bright-blue bottle of Bud Light in front of each of them really looks great on camera. But we’ve got more important things to think about. Rogen says that women are paid less than men! Schumer says women are charged more for cars, dry cleaning and shampoo.
Upon hearing this incredible piece of news, Rogen responds as if his mind is blown. "You pay more but get paid less? That is double wrong!"
And having processed this incredible feminist breakthrough, he runs off to call his mom, newly outraged on her behalf.
The trouble is that nobody is as stupid as Seth pretends to be in these spots. And playing such a dumbass trivializes the issue. And if there’s anything we don’t need, it’s another male doofus character in advertising. The answer to fighting for women’s rights is not to make men seem dumber!
Meanwhile, Schumer says: "Bud Light proudly supports equal pay. That's why Bud Light costs the same, no matter if you're a dude or a lady." Except that A-B has had precious few high-ranking female executives, on its board or within the corporation, and one did sue for being paid less than her predecessor.
All in all, the campaign is the opposite of what each comic goes for in their performing personas, which is revealing and acknowledging uncomfortable truths.
As a way to appeal to women, the equal-pay spot is just downright pandering. “That is double wrong!” Seth says, when being informed of this issue for the very first time.
His response pretty much sums up the whole campaign. Sorry, but to paraphrase the famous Miller Lite theme: Tastes bad. Unfulfilling.