Beer ads today still follow many of the principles laid out in Messner and Montez de Oca’s 2005 “The Male Consumer as Loser” from nearly a decade ago (2005). The “dominant gender themes” of “Losers,” “Buddies,” “Hotties,” and “Bitches” still permeate throughout beer ads today (pg. 1887). Carlton’s “Beer Chase,” considered to be one of the best beer ads of 2012, contains all of these elements, albeit focusing more on the “Losers” and “Buddies” elements. Of course, the ad interpolates the crucial idea that men simply won’t put their beer down, no matter what.

In order to identify and discuss these dominant gender themes, let’s progress through the ad chronologically, stopping periodically to point out said themes, and what their implications could be for their audience. Right off the bat, we’re shown four guys who are clearly close friends, and very clearly not the type of men you’d see in a Calvin Klein ad. For a few seconds, we’re meant to assume that these guys are just four “Buddies” who confide in each other to have a good time. In fact, they’re so oblivious to their surroundings that it takes a nod from the bartender for them to realize the bar they walked into with a duffel bag of stolen cash is full of cops (who also seem to be devoid of any “studs”). This lack of awareness is a trait commonly associated with “Losers.”

What occurs next is a parody of many a man’s action-flick-driven dreams, the high speed chase. Complete with a cheesy 80’s track, the stage is set and the audience expects an epic getaway to play out. But instead of piling into a muscle car (as would be expected), the band of buddies elects to make a run for it…on foot…so they don’t have to discard their beers. The kicker here is that the cops also refuse to put their beers down. The absurdity and comedy of the situation masks a pair of alarming ideas being presented: that the buddies are so attached to their beer that they’ll risk incarceration, and that the officers are also infatuated to the point that they won’t put down their beverages to carry out their civic duties. To these men, beer is more important than freedom and professional responsibility.

As the chase continues, the ad employs the concept of “cultural cannibalism” to clue the audience in on the joke (Goldman and Papson). The cheesy 80’s track, clumsy cop “car crashes,” use of the Los Angeles River location, and bursting through the barricade (which they do in a clumsy, “Loser” fashion) are all cultural cues that provide the excitement and comedy that make the ad memorable.

The chase ends with the buddies jumping off a draw bridge and landing smoothly on a yacht filled with quintessential “Hotties.” If this were an actual 80’s action flick and if the buddies weren’t classic “Losers,” they would surely garner the praise and adoration of the women present. But alas, they’re ignored because that’s what “Hotties” do: either ignore “Losers” or humiliate them. The buddies don’t even care though! The last shot shows them again gathered around the bar, completely oblivious to the women around them and the fact they’re on some strangers yacht. All they need is each other and their unifying beer. Nothing else.

This ad is seen by many people as clever, fun, and relatively harmless. And for the most part, I’d agree with them. It’s an enjoyable ad that puts a smile on your face. That being said, I still believe it’s valuable to evaluate the messages encoded in such ads, and to remember that just because an ad is funny doesn’t mean it isn’t trying to shape the behaviors of it’s audience.

By Joe

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