Monday, June 3, 2013
Fun With Old Beer Commercials
One of the best things about YouTube is the ability to look at old television advertisements. Nothing else is as good at really taking me back into the past, since I haven't seen most of these ads since when they were first aired.
As a young lad the foundations for my current love of beer were laid by commercials that made beer drinking seem to be about the coolest thing ever. My attraction to the world of these ads, along with how entranced I was at the smell of hops when my family toured the Coors brewery on a vacation should have been big warning signs for my parents. Without further ado, here are some vintage beer ads with commentary.
A decade before I had a drop of malted barley I had already considered the great taste vs. less filling debate waged in Miller Lite ads. My favorite is a bowling match between the various jocks featuring the one and only Rodney Dangerfield. It's a weird kid who adores a standup comedian whose schtick revolves around feelings of defeat that most people don't understand until they're quite a bit older. I loved this commercial, even if I didn't recognize aging ex-sportsmen like Deacon Jones and Red Auerbach.
Much smoother than Rodney was Billy Dee Williams, especially when he shilled for Colt 45 malt liquor. Few other men could rock one of those ridiculous light-colored 80s sweaters and not look like a dork. (Honestly, in my younger days I drank Old English and Mickey's rather than Colt 45. My grandpa preferred King Cobra, no kidding.) In my childhood I couldn't think of any greater authority on suaveness and success with the ladies than Lando Calarissian. Someday I thought I would woo a young lady by taking her hand, giving it a kiss, and telling her "you truly belong here with us among the clouds." I also actually thought that "malt liquor" meant it was fancier than beer. After all, the badass cans of black and gold King Cobra in my grandpa's fridge looked a lot sleeker and cooler than those lame golden cans of Coors with the waterfall on them. In the mind of a ten year old, a cobra beats a waterfall every time. Now I know that Colt 45 "works every time" in the sense that it is guarnteed to cause a blinding hangover.
Perhaps even more misleading were the ads for Old Milwaukee, a brew I affectionately call "old swill." Their 1980s ads featured manly men conquering the great outdoors together and ending their day by drinking cans of Old Milwaukee that somehow magically appeared on the scene. The tagline was one of the most laughable ever: "It doesn't get any better than this." I beg to differ.
Like tobacco companies, brewers have never been above using animal mascots to pique the interest of children in their products. Before the Budweiser frogs, there was the original: the Hamm's Bear. Damn that's a catchy song. For some reason in this ad, as in others, beer is associated with the great outdoors, perhaps to keep people from the knowledge that their macrobrewed swill is mass produced in a factory. At least the Hamm's Bear is much more wholesome and less annoying than Spuds McKenzie.
Brewers also want to avoid reminding their customers of the negative effects of imbibing. That's why it was a wee bit embarrassing in the late 1980s that Michelob had ads featuring Eric Clapton at the same time he went into rehab for boozing. Perhaps more embarrassing, Michelob also hired Phil Collins and Genesis, not exactly a boost for the ol' hipness factor. That said, the vintage MTV video editing style, poofy hair and t-shirts worn underneath white suite jackets does make this commercial a wonderful 80s time capsule.
And now for the just plain odd and disconcerting. A lonely biker guy combined with a classic song by Boston? Only in a Schlitz ad. (It's also another reminder that nothing was cooler in the 1980s than mirrored aviator sunglasses.) Evidently Olympia was the beer of sixties bohemians. Last but not least, Schlitz Malt Liquor shows us that breakdancing and inebriation (with a dash of minstrelsy) are quite a mix. It's sad to see the depths that Fred "Re-Run" Berry sank to.