Bud Campaign a Designated Dud
An attractive female beams her message across the opening page: “Wanna go home with me tonight?” No surprise here: Budweiser is using sex to sell its latest public relations campaign, the “Budweiser Designated Driver.” Anheuser-Busch InBev (the global giant owner of Budweiser) has taken the old adage “sex sells” to heart, featuring beautiful people who drink too much, and do so often, as they tell us over and over in the campaign’s ad.
Among the many things wrong with this campaign, here are a few that rise to the top of the ridiculous list:
- Despite listing “DD” on two web page tabs, Budweiser’s campaign does not define what a DD is. Before saying “that’s crazy, everyone knows that a designated driver is someone who has not ingested any alcohol”–check out the options at urbandictionary.com. DD also means “designated drunk.” “Designated driver” also means someone who is the least drunk out of a group of friends—not a driver who is actually sober.
- Actors in the ads also use the words “fun,” “awesome,” and “safe” to describe going home from a party or bar with a DD when they were drunk. Equating being drunk with a fun and safe activity is simply false. Many perpetrators of sexual violence seek out potential victims who are drinking and are too drunk to resist their attackers.
- The actors also repeat the idea that they needed someone else to drive them home, spreading the message that they commonly drink enough alcohol that they know they can’t drive a car. This cements the idea that dangerous drinking is common and acceptable into the public psyche.
- Another of the 30-second Budweiser ads makes fun of a police officer conducting a sobriety test.
- The final frame of the ads say “Thank you” above a Budweiser logo. Is the audience supposed to thank Anheuser-Busch InBev for frequent dangerous drinking, potential alcohol-related violence, drunken or unwanted sex, or mocking police officers enforcing alcohol-related laws?
A quick click on the About Bud DD link takes you to a statement about how Budweiser has spent more than $750 million dollars over three decades “to implement dozens of community-based programs and national ad campaigns to promote responsibility and the use of designated drivers.” That might seem like a lot of money over 30 years, with an average of $25 million per year. Until one realizes that Anheuser-Busch InBev recently announced its very successful third quarter (for 2009 alone), with profits that doubled to more than $1.55 billion from $690 million a year ago.
Let’s compare $750 million over 30 years ($25 million per year) to $1.55 billion in three quarters of a year.
Now let’s imagine the real impact Anheuser-Busch InBev could have if they actually want to decrease alcohol-related harm from their products, and put that same amount of money into prevention strategies that work.