Until recently, beer ads haven’t been known for thinking outside the box. If you watched televised sports growing up, the beer ads you saw likely all blend together in your memory, creating one supercut of beach volleyball, Swedish bikini teams, and talking animals. The tired, bro-centric image is slowly changing as beer companies realize they need to appeal to customers beyond the males aged 21-54 demographic. Beer companies have also wised up to the idea that they need to promote responsible, even health-conscious drinking, as more drinkers seek low-calorie alcohol that fits their perceived “active lifestyle.”
In its new commercial, Budweiser would like to take a moment to remind us of one easy way we can drink more responsibly: Grab a water between beers. It’s the advice you’ve been hearing since college, probably, but that seems to fall by the wayside every now and then when you’re at the bar or home watching a game with friends. You wake up in the morning vowing never to forget that lesson again.
The ad isn’t complicated: Anthony Anderson (of Black-ish) and Lakers guard Danny Green team up to score a buzzer-beating, game-winning shot, all thanks to the fact that Anderson drank a water between beers. Sure. It’s a simple message, but a welcome reminder to get up and pull a Spindrift from the fridge before you grab another beer.
But while alcohol companies tout their “responsible drinking” efforts—with campaigns about safe driving, age gates on their websites, and prohibitions against underage kids following them on social media—that obscures a less rosy reality. According to a recent analysis by The Economist, consumers who drink harmful or hazardous amounts of alcohol account for 68% of the alcohol industry’s revenue in the U.K. Here in America, alcohol industry lobbyists now outspend the tobacco industry’s lobby. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the costs of excessive alcohol use are about $2.05 per drink—but those costs don’t fall to alcohol companies.
While responsible drinking is a nice message to push in commercials or on social media, the reality is that the industry makes a sizable chunk of its profits off drinkers who aren’t abiding these suggestions. Acknowledging that reality is hopefully the first step toward making substantial changes, but what those would look like is still up for discussion.