A Decade of Beer Ads: The 1980’s

3 01 2010

Today is the forth of a series of posts where we will hastily derive sociological statements about American Beer Culture through beer advertisements found on YouTube.

Beer in 1980’s- The Official Beverage of Neo-Conservativism: In 1980, Ronald Reagan ran for President on the idea of “Morning in America”. We were on the dawning of a new era of American prosperity. Through hard work, sacrifice, and American ingenuity, we would persevere in the Cold War. We would have a renewed economy. And once again, Americans would feel good about being Americans. Beer companies were already marketing themselves as the good, clean, American drink of choice. Through the 1960’s and ’70’s, beer commercials were painting themselves as the beverage of the “Average American.” Here, they were able to capitalize on this feeling.

Notice how in the following ads, the emphasis is on “American Tradition,” the “American Way,” and on images of cowboys, factories, and construction sites. America was on the upswing and beer would be there at the end of the day.

As America began to make its way back to the top, and Americans had more disposable income, the type of beer one drank became a status symbol. Americans began drinking fancier, more expensive imported beers. Notice the subtle comments on class distinction of the beers below. It is no longer about men who work with their hands. Its now suits, ties, long days at the office followed by sophisticated imported beers. For lack of better terms, domestic beers were for rednecks and imported beers were for yuppies.

And speaking of Amstel Light, the 1980’s saw a rise in lite beer sales. While lite beers had been around since the late 1960’s, the exercise and fitness craze of the 80’s had seen a marketing upsurge in lite beers. However, at this point, lite beers had gained a reputation for being colorless and flavorless. This was a problem that advertisers had to overcome.

Miller lite solved this problem jam packing their ads full of celebrity spokespersons and brought in a very catchy catch phrase: “Tastes Great! Less Filling!”

Whereas Budweiser made their lite beer much more  about a lifestyle beer the promotes fun and excitement. When you are drinking Bud Light, everything else is just a light.

And really, what would be a post about 1980’s beer commercials without Spudz McKensie- The Original Party Animal?!