2005 State of the Sleaze

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Remember the good, ol’ days of beer commercials, when men were men and women were ridiculously endowed sex objects? Viewers drooled (or gasped, depending on testosterone) at the sight of cat-fighting lesbians and we all pondered a threesome with those twins.

That was just two years ago. Sure, those ads were semi-pornographic and exploitive.

But they were also something else: funny.

These are grim times, judging from Joe Sixpack’s 3rd Annual State of the Sleaze. The 2005 beer ad season was an unfunny – boring, even – exercise in clueless corporate shilling.

Humor was replaced by dopey sight gags, like Bud Light’s “Rusty,” the dude left alone in his apartment with a shock collar. You can see the joke coming a mile away, and after one viewing, it’s a good excuse to sprint to the bathroom.

Compare that to Miller Lite’s infamous cat fight. Americans – even finger-wagging prudes, bless ‘em – couldn’t take their eyes off the girls.

In the post-Janet Jackson, holier-than-thou age of Bush-style evangelical hypocrisy, beer-makers have virtually turned off the sex spigot. It’s perfectly alright, apparently, for pharmaceutical companies to promise four-hour erections, but God forbid we see someone having fun with a glass of suds.

Indeed, imagine the grief Anheuser-Busch would get if it started marketing a high-alcohol malt liquor, for example, with Levitra’s horny voice-over: “Strong! Lasting! When he wants it!”

New Bud Headbanger: Side-effects may include all-night benders, spontaneous blathering and, in rare circumstances, instantly improved chances of picking up that babe at the end of the bar. In cases of prolonged exposure, consult your toilet.

Laugh it off, but in a rough count during the NFL playoffs, I saw about two Cialis ads for every three Miller spots. This weekend’s conference championships may be the last time booze out-numbers boners.

Meanwhile, here’s Joe Sixpack’s 3rd annual State of the Sleaze, rated on a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 being an ad that might actually make me forget my principles and drink factory-made swill).

        Bud Light – 4

Spot: Refs running off with cases of Bud Light that they swapped for Miller Lite.

Even without sex, this is the one set of beer spots that has provoked the most controversy this season.

ABC and ESPN supposedly both rejected three similar A-B ads that spoofed Miller. That followed a row over a trio of Miller ads that were pulled when A-B complained they made unsubstantiated claims.

Meanwhile, the Center for Science in the Public Interest notes that Bud Light’s referee ads run afoul of the Beer Institute’s voluntary ad and marketing code barring ads that “portray or imply illegal activity of any kind.”

“One can’t help wonder whether the ads also have some other message in mind, namely, that breaking the law and bamboozling law enforcement efforts is a fine way to get a Bud Light,” wrote CSPI’s alcohol policies director George Hacker.

(He might’ve also noted that NFL referees are officially an over-used gag in commercials.)

In a reply, A-B basically told Hacker to lighten up. “They are clearly meant to be a spoof,” the company said, referring to them as “over-the-top humor.”

I’d tend to agree with A-B, except THEY AREN’T FUNNY.

Hey, Bud Light: Whatever happened to Real Men of Genius? Now, that was over the top.

        Miller Lite. 3.5

Spot: Challenging the call at the bar.

It gets an extra point for those Coyote Ugly bar girls, but like I noted above, the series is already tired.

Spot: “I can’t taste my beer.”

I’m taking away that extra point for its National Geographic docu-drama approach. Yeah, it’s satire, but it’s way too subtle for a Sunday afternoon of bone-crunching football. Last year, the same series featured a Return of the Living Dead-like panic, with desperate guys throwing themselves onto car hoods. This year, the gag is just dull and pathetic.

        Beck’s. 2

Spots: Bikinis in black and white.

A rare moment of cleavage, but how dumb is the voice-over: Friends and beer. The trick is never confusing the two.

What “trick”? Beer is always by your side, joining you in life’s best moments, comforting you when you’re down. Friends, on the other hand, steal your beer.

At least, that’s what Beck’s would admit if its ad people had a sense of humor.

        Coors Light. 2

Spot: The coldest-tasting beer in the world.

What the? Tell me something: What does cold taste like? Cold is not a freaking taste, you boneheads.

“When beer starts out this cold,” the voice-over assures, “it ends up this refreshing.”

This is the emptiest claim in advertising since the Phillies promised us a pennant.

        Aspen Edge. 2

Spot: Insults around the barbeque.

Something about carbs – I don’t recall the details. All I remember is the guy tossing a perfectly good steak on the ground. And then it ends with a possibly homophobic joke about a man purse.

        Guinness. 3

Spot: The invention of the little black book.

Brilliant? Well, the Monty Pythonesque animation is eye-candy, but this series just leaves me empty.

And, now, they’re trumpeting the fact that Guinness Stout is just 125 calories. Note to Madison Avenue: No one drinks Guinness because they’re on a diet. We drink it because we like the taste, and we like those creamy bubbles.

        Michelob Ultra. 3

Spots: Rollerblading at lunch, wind-sprints on an oval track.

Nice, crisp shots of carb-obsessed athletes. Notable for their use of the most flat-chested woman in the history of beer commercials.

        Budweiser. 2.

Spots: Joe Buck and a donkey bonding with Clydesdales.

I dunno, maybe Bud will redeem itself in the Super Bowl, but this season’s ads have been a real disappointment.

What happened to Leon? Somehow, white-bread Joe Buck (and his “slama-lama-ding-dong”) stole the spotlight.

If A-B had any balls, it would bring back Leon and have him riff on Randy Moss’s moon.

Now, that would be funny.



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