- Politics and Social Issues
Budweiser's Couple - Gay or Best Buds?
Budweiser will be congratulated or otherwise – depending on your point of view! They've just produced the first beer ad showing a gay soldier's romantic homecoming – or have they? There seems to be a lot of ambiguity in the commercial.
In the ad, there is excitement at the news and then preparations for the homecoming. But who is the guy making all the party arrangements? I have played the ad several times and can see why there is an argument to be made for a number of different interpretations.
The commercial begins with a typical looking soldier getting ready to come home from what looks like an overseas deployment. But what's going on at home? Have a look and decide for yourself – if you can!
The guy who cheerfully takes on the organization for the homecoming could be a loving brother. He is busy getting all of their other buddies and family together as well as preparing the barn for the mega party that is going to be celebrated with copious amounts of Budweiser in fine American style.
Other viewers suggest that Budweiser has made what the Huffington Post reported as possibly “the first-ever post-Don't Ask Don't Tell gay military ad.” However, marketing to the gay and lesbian community has a history that stretches back over a decade.
And it is not the first time a beer company has found itself stirring up controversy. Coors famously antagonized the gay and lesbian community in the 1970s because of sexual orientation questions that were asked prospective employees undergoing polygraph tests. Because of a boycott and the negative publicity, Coors hired Mary Cheney as a marketing specialist in the 1990s and began sponsoring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) events and advertising in publications targeted for that audience.
Coors showed that it hurt their profits to have offended the LGBT community and their supporters; and hiring one of America's best known gays as a marketing specialist was an obvious ploy to win back those it had offended. However, Budweiser has gone much further in its marketing.
And there is good reason to view the ad as being a great homecoming celebration being organized by a gay lover. The first person the soldier called is a male who is apparently living and sleeping by himself back home. Okay, that's a major clue. Who do you call first with the most important piece of news you can tell? A friend, a brother, mom and dad, your lover? It is not that easy since there are circumstances where the obvious answer is not necessarily the right one. For instance, some brothers or even friends have close enough bonds that parents may take second place.
However the ad is interpreted, Budweiser must have been aware of the ambiguity. It is very likely that they deliberately built it in expecting the very kind of attention and publicity that is garnered by this and similar articles. They can innocently and perhaps legitimately claim that any interpretation is up to the viewer – but they could be open to the charge of exploiting the ambiguous gay interest merely to drive up sales. On the other hand, others may see the gay interest as a corporation recognizing that it is good business to acknowledge the reality of the make up of America's military and general population.
Gays are no longer to be ostracized, demonized or feared – they're people just like everyone else, some will argue, and, importantly, the ad seeks to pay homage to America's military and by association to all those gay Americans who served under the “Don't ask, don't tell” policy. Some other gays will view advertisers and their clients more cynically and simply see the ad as exploitative. Perhaps others will not care whether the two guys are friends, brothers or gay and just regard it as just another heart-warming ad.