My phone was blowing up during this year’s Super Bowl, not with texts about the game or the halftime show but with friends’ questions about those Anheuser-Busch brewed-without-corn-syrup ads. Most people didn’t understand them, and that’s because they’re vague and confusing. As I wrote after the Super Bowl in February, the ads were designed to attack MillerCoors and make consumers (erroneously) think there’s high-fructose corn syrup in those beers. Now, a judge has ordered Anheuser-Busch cease running ads that imply MillerCoors beers contain corn syrup.
The Associated Press reports a U.S. district court in Wisconsin ruled in favor of MillerCoors, and slapped a temporary injunction on Anheuser-Busch’s use of the phrase corn syrup in any adds “without giving more context.” As the Associated Press reporting notes, “Bud Light is brewed with rice instead of corn syrup, but Anheuser-Busch uses corn syrup in some of its other beverages, including Stella Artois Cidre and Busch Light beer.” That was my primary beef with the ads, too: Yes, corn is used to brew some of America’s most popular beers, but that’s not exactly the same as dumping tons of Karo into beer. Without explaining the term corn syrup, the ads intentionally scare customers into thinking beer contains the same sugary stuff as soda or convenience-store snack cakes.
The ruling doesn’t stop all ads targeting MillerCoors; the commercials that specifically premiered during the Super Bowl can actually continue airing. Instead, it stops any ads that use corn syrup but not the phrases “brewed with,” “made with,” or “uses,” or that describe corn syrup as something added to finished beers. So, ads that take a swipe at beers brewed with corn syrup are fine. Ads that say some beers have corn syrup in them are not. So much clearer, right? Sigh. My hope is that the ruling will help tamp the flames of a corn-syrup kerfuffle that turned into a full-out beer war. Big breweries will hopefully use the time they’ve spent slap-fighting about corn syrup to instead talk about why beer is delicious.