Why the Budweiser Puppy Must Be Destroyed

This video embodies all that is wrong with Old Advertising:

 It’s a genuinely touching piece of visual storytelling. It shamelessly checks every box:

  • Story of separation and longing – check.
  • Set in a pure sunlit rural locale – check.
  • Background characters are handsome/beautiful, all-American – check.
  • Soundtrack is a recently popular bittersweet lovesick ballad – check.
  • Main character is a cute widdle puppy – check.
  • There are horses – check.

The result is an emotional cruise missile targeted directly at your capacity for pathos. The ad does that extremely well.

That is why it fails.

Let me be clear. There’s nothing wrong with appealing to emotion. This ad fails because it’s a mis-match between the emotion elicited and the brand doing the eliciting.

Budweiser isn’t about pathos. It’s about having a good time with friends (responsibly!). Where does my unfulfilled longing to be with the one I love  fit in with the Budweiser story? It doesn’t. Or rather, if I’m mixing Budweiser with unfulfilled longing, I’m in for a night I’m going to regret.

This ad assumes that I’m stupid enough, as a viewer, to associate Budweiser with puppy love even though by emotional logic and conscious brand positioning they have nothing to do with each other.

We know you’re trying to sell us stuff. It’s cool to acknowledge that now.  We’ve become smarter, as a public, in recent years. That’s why successful advertising these days is more self-aware, and plays with it. No need to try and clothe your advertising in supposedly innocent narrative.

3 thoughts on “Why the Budweiser Puppy Must Be Destroyed

  1. I believe Anheuser Busch has long targeted kids with their ads to keep the customer pump primed. And its working. Its market share is over 50%. So how do you target kids in beer ads without getting busted? Funny and touching ads that entertain adults that just happen to include dogs and frogs and puppies. The adults are distracted by the humor and the tug at the heartstrings and miss the fact that the eight-year-old sitting next to them is seeing a puppy and a Budweiser logo. Google the coverage of the ads and you’ll find glowing reviews with no objections to using a puppy to sell beer. The only reason Busch doesn’t use cartoon characters and Santa Claus in its ads is because, the last time I looked, the Beer Institute guidelines forbid it. Why doesn’t the forbidden list include baby animals that are equally appealing to kids? Well it’s apparent that Busch pretty much controls the BI and I think it’s safe to assume Busch wouldn’t allow that because it would severely damage its long-term marketing strategy.

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