| Beer Buddies
Just for starters. I bet that all the Bud Ice drinkers out there don't realize that they get their hands around quite a few men (and possibly a woman) every time they hold a bottle of Bud Ice in their hand.
In the bottom left hand corner of the red portion of the label there is a sketched face, looking down to the right. And just above the 'ud' of Bud there is another sketched face.
There is probably a third male face represented in the label but this third face is in profile and only party in view. Now why should this be? If you cannot detect them yet, there is a rollover below to help you identify their positions.
Bear in mind that there are two groups of beer drinkers. The social drinkers. And those who drink to control anxiety and other emotional states. Plenty of spirit ads promote anxious states by using secondary imagery in their ads. See for example the Jack Daniels ads elsewhere on this site. It is unusual for beer ads to do likewise but it is possible that they are catching on to the commercial possibilities of doing the same. Or, since extrapolation from psychological research would seem to indicate that such embedded elements in ads do not influence behaviour, perhaps Anheuser-Busch are just copycats. The first two sketched faces seem to represent the party animals, but neither of them are really happy. After all, who would be drinking something that is so cold it kills the ability of taste buds to taste anything. It doesn't deserve to be called beer. The third face would seem to be directed towards those who use drink to manage their feelings.
So where it it? Look to the right of the 'd' in Bud. There you will find the centre portion of this third face. Accept the two dark blobs as eye and mouth respectively and note that the back of the head has been 'cut off'. Presenting such a depressing image could trigger equivalent feelings in already depressed or anxious drinkers. If such an embedded figure were effective it would 'encourage' them to drink more.
This third face doesn't exhaust all the facial features in this ad. The fourth one is less clearly demarcated than the third face and it could be indicative of a male or female. Whatever the gender of this 'person' they have a button nose and their hair comes down in a quiff over their right eye. The squiggle to the bottom of the B in Bud is his/her ear and he/she seems to be 'half cut'. If you have not noticed this sketched face by now have a look at the upper portion of the label to the left of the B of Bud. The squiggle nearest the edge of the label is the mouth, to the right and slightly above it is the button nose. You should now be able to perceive the rest - unless you have had as much alcoholic drink as this unfortunate Buddy.
Marlboro ads contain the widest range of semi-subliminal advertising. It would seem therefore as though Philip Morris and their advertising agencies can justifiably claim to be the Masters of Manipulative Advertising. However, in at least one technique they are clearly beaten by Anheuser- Busch. They produce Budweiser - the beer that claims to be the original Bud - but isn't (see end of section for further comment).
Budweiser ads are extremely adept at the double page spread. In these ads, only part of each page conveys the relevant semi-subliminal and/or manipulative message. You might even be tempted to call them centrefolds. However their message is not as overt as those of magazines in the Penthouse/Playboy genre.
A simple example will make this clear and help you find the embedded elements or message in subsequent Budweiser ads. If you hold a couple of sheets of paper together and fold them in half you have the equivalent of eight pages in a magazine. If you open your folded sheets one at at time, slowly, on turning the first page and the second page, at a couple of points you will see only half of the left hand page (pages 2, 4 and 6) and half of the right hand page (pages 3, 5 and 7). If a message is contained partly on the left hand side of the left page and partly on the right hand side of the right page when you have partly turned the page they will appear together. Open the page further and the message or relevant image disappears as the two pages come into focus.
Before we get to the Budweiser ads, here are two examples. One is for Beck's Beer and one for Marlboro. The Beck's beer ad it should be noted does not contain any semi-subliminal elements.
A tale of two halves
If you look quickly at this Beck's ad you will fail to notice all the interesting elements in the background. To note what is on view, see the larger image by clicking on the illustration. In addition, if you skim over the ad you will also fail to notice the even more interesting picture that is evident when only half of each of the two pages is in view (below right).
Failing to notice that Beck is the key (to what you may well ask), or the reclining, bikini clad woman in the background, or any of the other interesting elements of such adverts would not lead them to be classified as semi-subliminal or manipulative in intent. The features of the Beck ad are relatively clear and the caption gives additional information. Viewers are intended to perceive the wit lying behind this ad. This is also the case with the two Twix ads intended for younger viewers, illustrated at the foot of the page. These are notably different from manipulative advertising.
However, a Marlboro ad (partially illustrated below right), with the caption 'Off Road Vehicle' does contain a semi-subliminal element. This is not intended to be perceived and therefore is manipulative in intent. In this case the vehicle is actually a burro or donkey, rather than a 4WD auto, as might be expected. So there is a degree of wit attached to this ad, however, the joke is not the prime element in the ad.
Rather surprisingly, the semi-subliminal nature of the ad was almost 'recognized' by a reader of Maxim magazine. The illustration is an extract from his letter and the relevant portion of the ad. The element referred to as Dobbin's Dangler was undoubtedly the small, strategically positioned, strap. But, to help ensure that it was perceived in a sexual manner, as a penis (or dangler, or even todger according to D Konstantin, the writer of the said letter), rather than a strap, the artist embedded the letters SX in the ad. You will find them embedded in the hair of the burro, on the left hand page of the ad. Open the two pages halfway and the letters will be level with the strap and viewed at the same time as Dobbin's Dangler.
Budweiser have used the split page technique a considerable number of times and the next few sections of this page include a few examples of their use of this technique. Unlike the Beck ad, all of the Budweiser ads have manipulative undertones as there was never any intention of encouraging viewers to perceive the connections that the Bud adverts were either trying to establish in viewers mind's or make them aware of the values the ads were trying to exploit.
*The appropriate term should be preconscious rather than unconscious. See the Glossary page for more precise definitions of these and other technical terms used on these pages.
Stars, Stripes and Woodies.
If you consider this image as simply an image of an individual relaxing image on the porch you are missing the point. Ads are never constructed simply to present you with a picture. They are intended, especially when there is only visual information present, to stir your emotions and help or lead you to associate them in some way with the product. In this instance the key elements in the ad are the can of Budweiser, the American flag, the pile of wood and the axe handle. Yes, that's right the woodpile and axe.
Most reflective readers will easily note the association between the Stars and Stripes and Budweiser. US citizens might even think the beer is a national institution. It might even therefore be appropriate to imply that drinking Budweiser is a patriotic activity. Such a claim might swing the beer drinking preferences of some redneck, dyed in the wool, conservative citizens. However, if it does not, then Budweiser have another message that only appears when the left hand page is being turned. It will appeal to an altogether more basic instinct.
The composite image shown below left illustrates that when the pages are only half opened the axe handle is aligned with the can of beer and even may appear to rise up out of the can. The connotations of this coincidence of imagery, especially when it is supported by the colloquial meanings of the terms 'woody' and 'axe' seem to indicate that Budweiser offers a cheap - but ineffective - alternative to Viagra. And, of course, it is the duty of every patriotic American male to 'raise their standard' whenever possible.
Heading for Cloud Nine?
Budweiser, like any major producer of advertising, tends to ring the changes in the type of advertising output that it uses. Here is another intriguing one that offers a number of more 'traditional' semi-subliminal elements. It is a sexual oriented ad, despite the initial impression of a hot, sweaty, pair of farmhands drinking Budweiser. Take a closer look at the clouds, especially those just to the right of the biplane. They seem curiously reminiscent of cartoonist's drawings. And, probably more pertinently, one would seem to be a female ('she' has 'breasts') and the other male ('he' has a (mini) 'erection').
If you cannot perceive the two figures all that readily, have a look at the image on the right. It is the same clouds rotated through ninety degrees, placing the figures in an 'upright' position. The face of the topmost figure is the easiest to recognize whilst the face of the lower figure is less obvious. However the 'sexual characteristics' of each figure can be determined without too much difficulty.
Budweiser seems to be, once again, offering a semi-subliminal, surreptitious, message about Budweiser and sex. If this were so, one might expect some additional confirmatory imagery. And, sure enough, there is.
Look at the cloud just above the Budweiser bottle in the hand of the man on the left. The bottle can be considered as a symbolic representation of the man's 'woody' and it is 'penetrating' the cloud above his head.
You might not be convinced by this interpretation. However, after a number of years noting the semi-subliminal artwork in Budweiser and other adverts, this seems a highly reasonable view to hold. Bear in mind that a lengthy series of ads help mould the thinking of viewers. Together with other promotional techniques such ads help viewers to appreciate (unconsciously) the sexual connotations of virtually all the products that are advertised using these techniques.
For starters, there is the label from Bud Ice, the latest concoction to claim to be a satisfying drink when in fact it is delivered so cold it kills the ability of taste buds to taste anything. One might as well drink neat iced water with some alcohol added. The label included three 'faces'. Two seemingly depicting individuals enjoying themselves (oriented towards the unsophisticated, socially oriented, Budweiser drinker), the other presenting the type of visage more common with spirits ads (oriented towards the depressed, dependent, drinker).
If you are curious about other Budweiser ads and the nature of those who drink Budweiser, look forward to a future update on this site concerning Budweiser and masturbation i.e. ads for Budweiser drinkers who are into self pleasuring and indulgency. See the Budweiser sheep ad below for some insight into this aspect of Bud advertising.
Sheep Dip Car Wash
Of all the two page Budweiser ads, this one would seem to be the most interesting. It can be interpreted as presenting a rather disparaging view of Budweiser drinkers.
It isn't unusual to find sex associated with products but crude jokes about sex and sheep would seem best confined to the sports locker room. However, this Budweiser ad manages to combine sex, sheep and alcohol into one neat package.
Look first at the oily rag lying underneath the right hand side of the car. There is not much doubt that it is intended to be a representation of sheep. If the imagery as presented in the ad is not clear have a look at the rotated image on the right which gives you an upright image of the ewe.
So what is the message? Budweiser drinkers are sheep or do they like sex with sheep? Or could it simply be that the artist is passing commentary on those individuals who commissioned the semi-subliminal content of the ad? Who knows. It would no doubt require a whistleblower or legal/government intervention before the 'trade secrets' of Anheuser-Busch are made public.
Sorry, I forgot to point out where the sex comes in (no pun intended).
Look at the rusty part of the car, just to the left of the central area of the bonnet. Embedded there are the key letters of the word sex. But there is more. Just as the Stars and Stripes ad indicated that Budweiser could produce a 'woody' rather than brewer's droop, this ad associates the word sex with masturbatory action. Yep, that's right masturbation. There are a number of other Budweiser ads that offer the same message 'Budweiser drinkers are immature or sexually inadequate wankers.'
Again, this message comes across in Budweiser ads but only when half of each page is in view. In this ad, consider the cues provided by the man in the yellow shirt. In the full spread all seems quite normal. He is holding a cloth and in the background there is something else lying on the veranda. However, bear in mind the manner in which he is posed.
When the pages are only half open he is viewed at the same time as the rusty 'lettering' embedded on the car bonnet. The implication forced by the visual association is that he is engaged in some sort of sexual activity. One is therefore 'expected' to interpret (unconsciously) his actions as sexual. This would mean accepting that he is holding or covering up a (somewhat limp) erection.
Such an interpretation may seem rather odd. However, other ads, as noted above, also emphasize this message and together they produce what seems virtually incontrovertible ie. evidence that the 'Budweiser drinkers are wankers' message is not simply a figment of the authors imagination. It is intentional. Whether the message is intended for young adolescent drinkers or, as in the first ad above, those who are 'past their prime', will depend upon the psychographic and demographic characteristics of the audience specific ads are intended for.
|**The claim by Anheuser-Busch would seem to be debatable. If historical evidence is to be relied upon the title would deservedly belong to Budweiser Budvar from Czechoslovakia - older and far superior in taste to the Anheuser-Busch Bud. Don't rely on advertising hype to lead you by the nose (or act like a sheep, as one of the Budweiser ads shown above might indicate). Get a bottle of A-B Bud and a Budweiser Budvar, then compare the two. Reach your own conclusion as to whether one can truly state that Budweiser is the Genuine Article. More importantly, so far as your taste buds are concerned, find out which one tastes the best? For some additional information about Ads'n'beer, click here.
Don't drink the image. Don't buy the hype. Don't get ripped off.
Drink Real Ale. It's Real Cool, It's Tasty and unlike most nationally distributed beers sold in Britain, Real Ales are not pasteurised and carbonated i.e. they are not dead beers.
For for a slight diversion from the subject of 'subliminal ads' and a change in focus to Quality Beer (not ads) click here.
BeTwixt and Between
Here are a couple of ads for Twix to indicate that this split page technique is not only used by brewing companies. Additionally, the use of the split page technique with young viewers indicates that by the time they reach teenage, advertising viewers are sophisticated enough to put 'two and two' together to make 'four'. By the time they reach late adolescence and adulthood they should be able to interpret such ads without paying much attention, hence the possible commercial 'success' of Bud's variation on semi-subliminal advertising.
In this instance, as in the Beck ad, attention is drawn to the fact that the two pages 'fit' together to provide an alternative message to the viewer. The 'message' on the left is contained in the ad on the right. The Bud ads, with their semi-subliminal content, provide no such cues. It seems reasonable to infer, therefore, that the conjunction of the different elements was not intended to be consciously attended to.
In this second Twix ad, the ad on the left produces the close encounter on the right as the young couple become more than buddies. Poor Norm is left beTwixt and between in both of these ads.
In both the Twix and Beck ads, note that appreciation of the ads also required some active involvement on the part of the younger viewers, unlike the manipulative Budweiser ads. Involvement is, of course, a well known 'foot in the door' technique. Involvement tends to engender liking and liking leads to purchasing. In effect, one of the smarter ways of getting youngsters to part with their money.
Miller Beer used the same 'active' technique in a June 2000 ad intended to appeal to the Gay Community.
Last Revised: 3rd January, 2003