Despite its growing appetite for gobbling up U.S. craft beer brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev is again taking a dig at craft beer with its latest round of advertisements for Bud Light.
Seeking to revive America’s top-selling beer, which has been mired in a sales slump, Bud Light is rolling out two new TV ads Aug. 10 highlighting the “quality and simplicity” of the beer and its “four essential ingredients:” barley, hops, rice and water.
One of the spots, dubbed “Complex,” lampoons craft breweries for their oddball creations, depicting a series of hyperbolic concoctions such as a frothy beer in a Mason jar with a rosemary sprig, an amber beer served with a hunk of cheese and another dressed up with a dangling lobster claw. The satirical campaign recalls Budweiser’s much-maligned “Brewed the Hard Way” spots of 2015, which pilloried and stereotyped craft brewers and craft beer consumers for fussing over “pumpkin peach ales.”
As Adweek’s Patrick Coffee notes: “Based on the latest campaign from Wieden + Kennedy, Bud Light wants to have it both ways: discouraging people from trying off-center brews while its parent company buys them up strategically.”
They’re the first new spots under Bud Light Vice President Andy Goeler, an Anheuser-Busch veteran who most recently led the brewer’s craft beer division, the High End. Goeler, who previously ushered Bud Light through unprecedented growth in the 1990s, appears to be pivoting the brand’s messaging away from a celebrity- and humor-based campaign and toward quality and the product in the glass.
While acknowledging that some consumers prefer chasing new and innovative brands, Goeler tells Ad Age’s E.J. Schultz there are others who just “want a good-quality beer.”
“Big does not equal bad,” he told the publication. “There is a reason that this brand sells as much as it does.”
The new messaging campaign appears to follow other beer brands, such as Miller Lite, which has focused on its status as the Original Light Beer, celebrated its taste and highlighted its carbohydrate and calorie counts; and Heineken, which aired a recent spot touting “three natural ingredients:” water, barley and hops.
It also comes as Bud Light has lost share to other American premium light lagers, including Miller Lite and Coors Light. Bud Light case volume was down 5.6 percent year-to-date through July 29, according to Nielsen cross-channel data, while Coors Light slipped 2.9 percent and Miller Lite edged down 1.6 percent. Bud Light still holds an 18.1 share of the overall beer market, compared with Coors Light’s 7.9 share and Miller Lite’s 6.6 share.
Bud Light does not plan to abandon all humor in its marketing. The brand plans to retain its “Famous Among Friends” campaign, which will roll out a new round of ads soon, Goeler told Ad Age and Beer Business Daily (subscription required.)