Bud Light Goes For Genie Outreach

"Wishes is my thing,” says a genie, newly emerged from a glowing Bud Lite bottle plucked from a refrigerator by an unsuspecting dude watching football with his friends.

The group (several men and one woman) gathers around the genie, open-mouthed.

So far, this is a standard set-up. How many Budweiser commercials include an opening scene with beer-holding friends in a kitchen, almost ready to worship the open door of the fridge, when they’re confronted with a surprise?

The twist in this Bud Light 60-second Super Bowl spot is that this genie has no regulation game: Forget the lamp, golden slippers or turban.

Rather, his look is more Freddy Mercury, with his major ‘stache, track suit, and silver wrap-around shades. That’s the first clue that we’re time traveling back to the ‘80s.



Mr. Genie, who could be a lounge singer in Vegas today, starts right in granting wishes. The first friend asks for “80s metal hair.” Done. Another wish is for a “sweet ride,” and we see the party crew now screaming out of the sunroof of a block-long DeLorean stretch limo -- a funny visual.

It’s all very jokey and busy, with lots of cuts and guest appearances by A-B family friends like musician Post Malone, who appeared in a previous spot for Bud Light Hard Seltzer, and former NFL star Peyton Manning, looking amusingly out of place in his zip-up Dad sweater.

They’re joined by Bud first timer Dana White, the CEO of UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) a mixed-martial-arts league with which the beer maker recently signed a humongous sponsorship agreement.

And here’s where the air in this trying-too-hard-to-party commercial -- "nothing to see here, we’re back and we’re normal!” -- starts leaking out.

Reality intrudes, because White had a domestic violence incident with his wife come to light last January, when a video of him slapping her surfaced.

He was not arrested or removed from his position at the UFC, or his other company, named, uh, Hard Slap.

So A-B is purposefully aligning itself with this volatile culture to prove its manliness?

Recently, White railed against politicians and the media in an interview.  Various other UFC stars are also known to do that, too, such as Middleweight Champion Sean Strickland, who went after a reporter at a recent press conference with an anti-trans rant, saying, "You are an infection. You are the definition of weakness.”

This was similar to the response last year to A-B’s innocuous post on Instagram by a popular trans influencer, a woman who looked like Audrey Hepburn, who  has more than 10 million followers. She’d been given a Bud Light tall boy can with her face on it as part of her announcement of an upcoming Bud Light March Madness giveaway contest.  She ended with “Go Team! Whatever team you’re on, I am too.”

This amounted to one tiny blip in the billion-dollar A-B marketing universe, but the extreme right wing began bullying and threatening her. Caitlyn Jenner excoriated her. (Huh?) The call for a boycott immediately resulted in a sales slump.

I understand that A-B leaders have a duty to shareholders to keep the stock price up. But the corporate response might have remained steadier and reality-based, rather than feeding into the frenzy, creating backlash to the backlash.

In its own “what not to do in crisis management” mode, A-B started by firing two marketing execs. One of them, while she still had her job, said on a podcast that Bud Light had “been in decline for a really long time. And if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand, there will be no future for Bud Light.” She also wanted to get away from old-fashioned frat-boy antics.

That’s what every marketer of a mature brand should be doing. Younger demos tend to embrace inclusivity.

“Easy Night Out” is a nice execution of a mediocre concept, hardly up there with the greats of Bud Light past. It has a tamped-down quality. 

In it, one of the friends asks the Genie to make him “invisible.” The genie does, but scoffs that the request is “predictable.”

It’s ironic that for many years, corporations led the way with diversity and inclusion initiatives not out if any elevated ethics, but because they knew they had to prepare for the demographics of the future and reach their customers with relevant messages. 

Last year’s Bud Light Super Bowl spot, with Miles Teller and his wife dancing around a living room while they waited on phone hold, came from a much more secure and sophisticated place.

This year’s not-so-subliminal message about dreaming of going back to Reagan times is the equivalent of asking to be invisible. 

Sadly, we live in messy, politically riven times. But I could have never imagined that the cray-cray would extend to bullying beer.

Next story loading loading..