“Drinkability” is dead. All I can say is, it’s about time.
You know what I’m talking about—at least you do if you’ve watched TV or opened a magazine in the past three years. If you have, you inevitably found yourself staring at an ad touting Bud Light’s “Drinkability” and thought to yourself, “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
It seems that the folks over at Anheuser-Busch InBev finally asked themselves that very question too, leading them to pull the plug on their “Drinkability” campaign, almost four years and countless millions of dollars after it began.
It was a long time coming. The inane slogan was first introduced at the end of 2007 with advertisements touting Bud Light’s “Superior Drinkability,” which at least conceded that other beers might be, you know, drinkable.
Bud Light kicked it up a notch in the fall of 2008 with a $50 million advertising campaign bragging, “The Difference is Drinkability,” which I suppose rescinded their previous implicit admission of the liquid, non-toxic nature of other beers.
Then 2009 happened. Anticipating a year of negative sales growth for the first time in Bud Light’s 27-year history, AB InBev gave up trying to explain the meaning of drinkability. (Perhaps the oft-repeated “Not too heavy, not too light” tagline uncomfortably reminded people of Goldilocks, who is most definitely underage.)
But, like a junkie who just can’t give up the rock, Bud Light kept plastering “Drinkability” on their ads, until the projections came true and sales of America’s most popular light beer declined in 2009 for the first time ever. And, early in 2010, Bud Light finally saw the writing on the wall and ditched “Drinkability.”
So what can be learned from what Advertising Age referred to as “the ‘Drinkability’ debacle?” Well, don’t choose a slogan that first confuses (“Huh?”) and then offends (“Am I supposed to be dumb enough to be impressed that a beer is drinkable?”) your intended audience. I shudder to think of the tongue-lashing Don Draper would give the hapless copywriter with the gall to pitch him such meaningless copy.
Worse yet, though, is the unintended accuracy of “Drinkability.” The blandness of the slogan reflects the blandness of the beer, and that’s the last thing you want on people’s minds as they’re watching a Bud Light ad.
Successful advertisements for light beer are the ones that really don’t focus on the beer at all. The most viewed Bud Light ad on YouTube involves a gentleman who sold a sextape of himself and his girlfriend to a porno company. He apologizes using Apology-Bot 3000, whose belly opens up to reveal a Bud Light and a pink “My Bad!” balloon. Beer! All is forgiven! (The misogyny and objectification of women in this ad, it should be noted, is unfortunately par for the course for light beer advertising—and wildly successful.)
Some funny shit happens, in other words, and Bud Light is along for the ride.
This isn’t to say that I’m a huge fan of non-“Drinkability” Bud Light ads myself. The most successful beer advertisement I’ve ever seen is in Wagner’s Liquor over on Wisconsin Ave. “Keystone Light,” it reads. “Two 30 packs for $22.99.” In college, it seems, some things trump all else.
Sam goes down smooth everytime at firstname.lastname@example.org