Sorry Bud Light, I’m not buying your “equal pay” stumping

In a TV spot that aired for the first time yesterday, Bud Light, the marketing team that sells America’s best-selling and least-flavoured beer, attempted to “tackle” the issue of gender pay equality.

The ad is a continuation of the beer company’s pseudo-political ad campaign that debuted during the super bowl which featured Seth Rogen and Amy Schumer stumping for the “Bud Light Party.”

In this new ad, Rogen and Schumer attempt to humorously address the very real issue that women still make less money than men and are often required to pay more for the same products–everything from hair care, personal products, and mortgages. The tagline is “Bud Light costs the same no matter if you’re a dude or a lady.”

I won’t link to either ad (because that’s what they want) but you can be sure that the humour is about as thin and watery as the product its being used to hawk. And here’s why: It’s super hypocritical.

Since long before InBev bought up the company, Anheuser Busch has embraced corporate mysogyny. I literally just finished reading the excellent book Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s Kings of Beer in which author William Knoedelseder details not only the business savvy, ambition, political connections, and shady dealings of the Busch family dynasty, but also the ways in which the company has embraced a misogynist “old boys club” ethos since roughly the Civil War.

From founder Adolphus Busch to his successors, August A. Busch, August Busch Jr. (aka Gussie), August Busch III, and August Busch IV and all their various spawn, this book is rife with tales of “boys weekends” where Anheuser Busch executives threw lavish parties that included “girls” for all those attending and the book includes passages on the Busch family using their wealth and fame to “pick girls out of crowds to party” and why philandering was acceptable for men, but expressly forbidden for wives.

The book fairly details the ways in which the men who ran this company treated women mostly as objects and, at best, set pieces. Indeed the culture of disposable women in the Busch family seems to have climaxed with the company’s last Busch family heir, August Busch IV, aka “The Fourth” who not only holds most of the responsibility for letting the family legacy slip away to Belgian businessmen, but also may have literally disposed of two women: In 1983, while driving his Corvette drunk, The Fourth was in an accident that killed Michele Frederick, a woman he had picked up earlier that night at a bar called Dirtbags in Arizona. He left the scene of the accident (which was actually littered with cans of Bud Light that flew from the Corvette). No charges were filed.

Again in 2010, The Fourth and his entourage placed panicked calls to police when Adrienne Martin, his 27-year-old girlfriend, died of a drug overdose at his mansion. He settled a wrongful death lawsuit with her family.

But yeah, Anheuser-Busch loves the ladies!

Seriously, how fucking transparent can an attempt at discussing gender equality get when it comes from a company that has used half naked women as window dressing for over half a century? Bud Light has been associated with bikini-clad women since the product was introduced in 1983. Google “Bud Light woman” and see how many hits you get related to a discussion on equal pay.

But oh yeah. Bud Light is all about the ladies.

Finally, there is this: AB-InBev was actually recently sued for the very fact that the company enforced gendered pay inequality. In a lawsuit launched in 2009 that detailed “20 years of gender bias” Anheuser-Busch executive Francine Katz detailed her experiences at the company including: “male-only corporate jets to guys’ golf outings and hunting trips.” The former executive said “her time in the Anheuser-Busch executive suite was rife with exclusion, intentional slights and outright discrimination. But it wasn’t until the King of Beers’ 2008 sale to Belgian brewer InBev in a hostile takeover that she says she realized the boy’s club atmosphere was costing her millions in salary and bonuses.”

The highest women up in the company’s history literally filed a suit against said company because former CEOs August Busch III and his son, August Busch IV “purposely paid her less solely because she’s a woman.”

Bud Light Party for equal pay? Fuck off.

*In the interest of full disclosure, it’s worth noting that Katz actually lost her lawsuit. I still believe the culture she describes very much exists, and detailed tellings of life inside AB corroborate her claims, but in 2014, a panel of seven woman and five men “determined that brewery officials did not discriminate against Katz based on her gender when setting her pay. Nine of the 12 jurors sided with Anheuser-Busch.” Full details here.

**I recognize that Katz’ allegations and these examples stem from a time before AB’s 2008 buyout by InBev, but the current iteration of Bud Light brought us the “Down for whatever” campaign that informed the world that Bud Light is “The perfect beer for removing “no” from your vocabulary” so I think discussing their co-opting of gender issues for marketing purposes is fair game.

3 thoughts on “Sorry Bud Light, I’m not buying your “equal pay” stumping

  1. A perfect Angry Beer Blogger blog. Because this is something to get angry about. Well said Ben.

  2. The gender pay gap is non existent. Anyone with a simple understanding of proper statistics knows this. So the problem is actually that they are perpetuating a myth.

    1. Well if its so easy to understand, why don’t you post some credible statistics to prove your point rather than making hollow statements?

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