The Puzzling Logic of Conan O’Brien’s Super Bowl Ad

One of the videos that made it into our Super Bowl ad roundup was the Conan O’Brien ad for Bud Light, in which his agent/manager/ambiguous guy in a suit convinces him to make an embarrassing Bud Light Ad  by assuring him that it will “only be seen in Sweden”.

The message of this spot seems to be “Drink Bud Light because it is a beer for awesome-non-Eurotrash-American Dudes!” In the world of the commercial, the only way that the effete Swedes could be convinced to drink Bud Light is with fire, mesh tops, and cheesy techno.  But does anyone really still hold this view of Europeans?

Sweden is now primarily known in America as the exporter of  indie pop songs that end up in bra commercials and the stylish yet affordable furniture that fills countless post-collegiate apartments. Why would Anheuser-Busch feel the need to rip on Europeans with a stereotype that no one even really buys into anymore? This paradox can explained in part by the fact that Anheuser-Busch was recently taken over by a Belgian beer manufacturer; as a result, the company is going to great lengths to reassure consumers that even though  they’re owned by Europeans, they are still the great American beer.

This Conan Bud Light ad is especially interesting when viewed alongside the Heinekin ad that also premiered during the Super Bowl (but which somehow wasn’t included in Hulu’s Superbowl Ad roundup), which features Coen Brothers regular John Turturro delivering a cryptic monologue about masculine responsibility over a song by a relatively little known Brooklyn indie-folk band called Twi the Humble Feather, all while prowling through the Village Vanguard jazz club.  Don’t believe me? Watch it for yourself:

This commercial, which is part of Heineken’s larger “Give Yourself a Good Name” campaign, utilizes essentially the same tactic that Don Draper used to market Heineken back in the quasi-fictional 60s, except now the market isn’t suburban housewives, but men in their 20s and 30s.  While Anheuser-Busch’s fear of being abandoned by Joe Six-Packs across the country led them to engage in some off-the-mark Euro-bashing, Heineken took the exact opposite approach, picking a cool star, a cool location, and a cool band to sell their cool European beer to cool urban dudes.

Drink up, my fellow members of the syncretic transnational hipsterati!