These days animation and beer commercials mix like beer and chocolate milk. Even the occasional Budweiser frog is carefully rendered not to appeal to kids. But in the early days of TV, you couldn't turn on the set without some whimsical cartoon lush pulling on a tall, cool, animated one. There were just more cartoon commercials on TV, period, since animation was capable of a little more visual pop than the primitive video equipment of the day.
Consumers were less sophisticated, too. Even the Eisenhower campaign was sold with cheerful cartoons and a catchy jingle. And nobody back then worried too much about marketing to kids. A nation whose kids were in coal mines a generation ago, who had starved through the Depression, and who had just beaten Hitler had bigger things to worry about. Here's what beer marketing looked like in those perhaps more innocent, but definitely more drunk, days...
Animated by the modernist titans at UPA (Mr. Magoo, Gerald McBoing Boing) and voiced by the comedy duo Bob & Ray, these Piel's beer ads went down smoother than the beer itself. Bert & Harry remain advertising icons long after Piel's lost the beer wars.
Also see: in Bert and Harry Piel at the Hockey Game, a Quebecois icer speaks the universal language of beer.
Sit through the Atomic TV intro (the actual commercials start at the 32-second mark) to meet the dandified Lord Baltimore, plugging Charm City's traditional favorite brew. Yes, you'll learn how Natty Boh is "brewed on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay", also known as "the land of pleasant living", which will come as news to anybody who's ever seen The Wire. A couple of more abstract (but still fun) NB ads follow before Lord Baltimore rejoins us at 3:59 along with some vaguely racist birds.
Also see: beware the second Natty Boh collection by Atomic TV, which cuts the banjo-strumming cartoon action with some afterschool special clips about drinking (pointless) and a live-action NB slow-jam from the '70s (awesome).
Minnesota's most famous bear hung on well into the 1980s, when these still-frequent animated spots convinced me that Hamm's must be in a close race with Busch and Miller Lite for world beer supremacy. Turns out the bear was about all they had left at that point, and he fell victim to changing attitudes about advertising to children shortly thereafter. Now all that's left is a monument outside the old headquarters in St. Paul and a so-called Hamm's Beer produced by MillerCoors. Me, I'm still looking for that land of sky-blue waters...
Also see: the many, many Hamm's Beer Bear commercials on YouTube.
UPA hired out their flagship character, the nearsighted Mr. Magoo, to Stag beer for these two commercials. What's more, they included a little UPA logo and credit in the ads themselves. I'm not sure I've ever seen such an open acknowedgment of the creative firm behind an ad. You'll never see a BBDO or Young & Rubicam logo in any of their spots.
Also see: Magoo sets up a picnic at first base, treats his stuffed moose to a drink, and electrocutes a repairman in two more Stag commercials.
Few regions of the world escaped ethnic caricature during advertising's bad old days. Here a so-called Swami takes one for South Asia before reverting to Borscht Belt deadpan for the punchline.
Also see: the racial mockery gets worse in this Genesee ad. I'll just say this: it takes place in a Chinese restaurant.
Carling's Black Label
Once upon a time, long before the Swedish Bikini Team jiggled into existence, breweries used tasteful, pleasant advertising to sell their brew. This animated spot exudes class and charm. Mabel the Waitress doesn't need to show any cleavage to get your mouth watering. Think she'd give me her number?
Also see: I don't know if this other great Carling ad is among those produced by the UPA studio, but it certainly has the witty, super-stylized, high-design UPA look.
A rare stop-motion beer commercial, with rollicking roadhouse piano and a Klondike theme inspired by the company slogan, "Made with Brewer's Gold". Too bad the characters are so creepy.
Also see: Ballantine got around that problem in this amusement-park spot by making the characters beers themselves. Way to eliminate the unsettling stop-motion middleman.
Another existing cartoon character plugging beer. And this campaign didn't even start until the mid-'80s. But it made a certain sense when I realized these were actually British commercials. Must be those permissive Europeans I've heard so much about.
Also see: Hagar's trip to an Indian restaurant proves that ethnic stereotyping was alive and well in the Thatcher-era UK, when Hagar can't handle the "Arctic moose vindaloo". I don't know who should be more offended, Indians or Vikings.
The cartoon beer commercial torn from today's headlines! This early-'60s number by noted comedy duo Mike Nichols & Elaine May enlists a bearded Latin American dictator named "Campanella Redementes" to stand in for Fidel Castro. The ending will come as no surprise to anyone who worked for the CIA back then.
Also see: the spots Nichols and May made for Jax Beer - Mom and Kangaroo - along with their numerous Narragansett commercials, all pretty swell. (Married to 'Gansett is a personal favorite of mine.)
You've seen the classic GUINNESS GIVES YOU STRENGTH posters and ads. Now here's an animated counterpart from the '70s, with that effortless Irish wit: "It's all right as pyramids go."
Also see: these older Guinness spots bring specific posters to life, including the toucans, the kangaroo, and the ostrich who gets the pint glass stuck in his throat.
And that's just the foam on the mug - the golden age of booze animation produced many more lost classics (lost, at least, to my YouTube search skills). Share your drunk cartoon memories below...
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