by Eli Altman

As far as I can tell, there are two reasons why Americans drink light beer: Either you’re trying to cut down on calories, or you’re planning on getting plastered and don’t want to get full before you’ve had your fill. Both of these reasons have made light beer the de-facto sponsor of the college experience.

(It’s important to note that light beer is an American thing. While it has spread to a few other countries, typically outside the US light beer means less alcohol—a concept that doesn’t make sense over here.)

If you watch any TV at all, you should be pretty familiar with the three titans of American light beer: Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light. With massive ad-buys, these giants are selling a lifestyle to men, and that lifestyle is a party: tailgate parties, beach parties, trendy apartment parties, Super Bowl parties… Most importantly, all of your friends are there and hoards of hot young women are somehow attracted to you and the light beer in your hand.

While selling a good time is nothing new, the big three have started to get more specific about why you should party with them. Unfortunately it has become readily apparent that they don’t have much to stand on. This is primarily because light beer is about quantity over quality. It’s a beer built for people who want to spend the night drinking beer. Since you can’t say that in your promotional material, let’s see how they dance around the idea of getting drunk:

Bud Light:
Starting in March of this year, Bud Light’s main pitch has been something called “drinkability.” As far as I’m concerned, this means that Bud Light is drinkable—which it is. Talk about setting the bar low… Los Angeles tap water is drinkable. In fact, if it weren’t drinkable, I imagine the FDA would get involved. Is that really the best thing they can say about their beer? That you can physically drink Bud Light without cringing or throwing it in the nearest dumpster? I know they can’t say it won’t make you vomit, but no beer can make that claim. Maybe saying it tasted ‘good’ was too much of a stretch, so they went with the next best thing. I imagine what they’re really trying to say is that you can drink a lot of it and it still kinda tastes like beer. Is there a better way to communicate this without attracting the FCC? I guess ‘Bud Light: tastes like beer, drinks like water,’ wouldn’t work.

Here’s how Bud explains “drinkablility”:

Coors Light:
Coors Light wants you to know that it’s cold. I mean really, really cold. It’s frost brewed, cold activated and as cold as the Rockies… all at the same time. The majority of the product specific information in Coors Light advertising is about how cold it is. Look, any beer can be cold. We all know this. If you put a Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite in the same fridge, guess what? They’ll all be equally cold! It’s more a function of your refrigerator or cooler than your beer. However, the one key benefit of having a really cold Coors Light is that you can’t taste it—which again brings us back to the quantity issue. The colder it is, the less you taste, the more you drink. Talk about brain freeze…

Miller Lite:
Miller Lite actually talks about how it tastes. I think Miller should get an award for just coming out and saying it. They say it tastes great (surprise) and this is primarily because it’s triple hops brewed. Personally, I liked it better when they just said “Great taste, less filling.”  Now they’re taking a different approach. They’re positioning themselves as a light beer that doesn’t compromise on flavor. This pulls them away from the college crowd and towards people who like the taste of beer but don’t like the look of a beer gut. The only hard part is convincing people that light beer can actually taste good. Does it taste good, or does it just taste good for a light beer? I know they say that they’ve won a few awards, but I imagine it will take a little more convincing than that.

Instead of dancing around the subject of getting drunk, maybe these guys should just run Super Bowl style ads all year long. They’re funny. And this way, the next time you’re in a liquor store, you can compare funny ads instead of drinkability, cold activation and triple hops brewing. After all, chicks dig a good sense of humor.