Monday, September 9, 2013

What Your Beer Ad Says About Your Character

A new Guinness ad and discussions of the forthcoming "Anti-Bullying Week" have collided to dust off the trusty blog. Blog, I've missed you. I have some things to say.

First of all, if you haven't seen the now-viral Guinness ad, take a moment to watch. Go on. I'll still be here on the other side:

A good deal of praise has circulated for this ad on the trusty Interwebtm, and rightfully so. It departs from traditional beer ads--yes, these are big, tough, men, but they aren't acting stupid or belligerent or sexist. There are no bikini-clad models here. Just dudes playing ball and enjoying beers afterwards.

Now some have suggested it isn't an appropriate or sensitive portrayal of a disabled person using a wheelchair. (See "Just One of the Guys" on Emily Ladau's blog, Words I Wheel By, as an example.) Here's the thing--and this is my opinion based on my life experience--this ad wasn't about disability or wheelchair users. Its intent is to sell beer. Even the famous Nike ad featuring NWBA star Matt Scott from a few years back was designed to sell Nike apparel. Neither of these companies can surely believe they are advocates for disabled rights, can they? Both use a man in a wheelchair to foster emotional appeal because emotional appeal works. Ads sell products--but sometimes they do so with dignity and respect and make us feel good.

I love an ad which can make me feel positive without deriding anyone. Nothing in the Guinness ad puts down the man in the wheelchair--in fact, he says "You guys are getting better at this," before the others step out of their wheelchairs. It's a beer commercial which shows guys being guys without negative stereotypes, oafish behavior, sexism, or other negative "guy" stereotypes. In fact, it promotes something I wish could become a "guy" stereotype: camaraderie. Friendship. Being good to each other--not pity for the guy in the wheelchair (I didn't read pity in the ad at all), but genuinely being good to each other.

Bullying has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It's a large part of my job as guidance counselor and a large part of life for too many kids, boys and girls alike. Beer ads are often bully ads, the cool kids (usually oafish, over-muscled men) drinking the right beer and landing the hot chicks. Beer ads often encourage the worst in us. Beer ads are notorious for being "generally pretty juvenile" as Aaron Taube at Business Insider explains in his discussion of the Guinness ad. I don't celebrate the Guinness ad because it includes a man in a wheelchair. I applaud it because it is about positive stuff--the good stuff--friendship, loyalty, hard work...

For me, the ad isn't about the disability; it's nice to see men who don't have to be ignorant, insensitive, sexist jerks enjoying beer. That is all.


Daniel Powell said...

Agreed! Beer ads, over the years, have pandered to the worst in us. Guys come across as buffoonish louts, governed by lust and gluttony.

The first time I saw the ad (love that sweaty guy who points to the sky as they walk off the court) I smiled huge. I'll buy a pack of Guiness this weekend, and that's a rarity for me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Aaron! I see you've linked to my blog post. I just wanted to say that I think you have quite an interesting perspective, and you make a great point about the importance of the portrayal of friendship and camaraderie in the ad!

Rebecca Nazar said...

Recently I enjoyed my first and last Guinness at a pub in Dublin. Eh, what can I say, I'm not a fan, but when in Ireland do as the Dubliners do, I suppose.To clear my palette, I followed by downing two shots of Jamesons: my true love. I swear in Cork, Galway and Dublin, pubs i sullied as a tourist, the waitresses all seemed, I swear, surprised/appalled a women would drink whiskey--not Pinot? On the rocks? they asked. Straight up, I replied. What can I say, I enjoy a smooth burn.

So whats my f@*king point?

No one is going to really sell me on Guninness; the stuff tastes like a loaf of stale pumpernickel bread put though a lazy blender. But my gut reaction to the ad, no over thinking it? Bullying, not bullying?

The ad made me want to hang with those guys and give Guinness a second chance.

I toast the "MadMen" who crafted the ad...with a neat Jamesons, of course. ; )

Aaron Polson said...

Daniel, Rebecca - I'll have to admit I'll grab a Guinness just to tip my hat (and I never wear one) for going against the grain.

Emily - I enjoyed your post, blog, and perspective. Thanks for stopping by.