I’m a sucker for old beer ads from the 1960s and 1970s – this much I’ve known for a while. Until today though, I couldn’t quite pinpoint why these ads resonate with me.
As I started going through old Olympia beer ads online, it struck me; the tone of these ads is totally different from beer ads today. By today’s standards, these ads are almost shockingly earnest. There’s no wackiness. No fart jokes. No dumb guys and hot chicks. This is beer as aspiration – a well-deserved reward to be shared with friends after a long day of fishing or hiking. It’s hard to even imagine an ad like this running today.
There was an industry-wide shift in the way beer was sold that seemed to start with the comedic Miller Lite (“I must be in the front row.”) and Bud Light (“Gimme a light.”) TV ads of the 1980s. And we’ve pretty much gone downhill from there. Now, obviously not all beer ads today are terrible – some actually are funny – they just all have the same tone. We’ve almost created a Pavlovian relationship between comedy and beer. Or at least that’s what the beer companies are hoping.
I wouldn’t mind seeing somebody change the tone a bit and go back to earnest. I wouldn’t mind drinking an aspirational beer for a change. I may have to go find an Oly.