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TV Commericals Clean Up and Dumb Down

Trends Since 2003

— January 7, 2006 — Marketing
This is what TV advertising aimed at men looked like, circa 2003: Two fetching young women, sitting in an outdoor cafe, begin to argue about the merits of Miller Lite beer. The argument quickly escalates into a hair-pulling, clothes-ripping brawl. The women, now half-naked, tumble into a fountain, then somehow wind up rolling around together in wet cement. The naughty male fantasy concludes with one saying to the other, "Let's make out!"

And this is what it looks like, circa 2005: A bunch of young guys, sitting around watching the game, realize they have run out of beer. To make it to the store and back before the action resumes, one of them tears out of the living room, races through a neighbor's house, jumps over a fence and hitches a ride on the back of a galloping police horse. He arrives at the market in time to grab the last six-pack of Miller Lite, just as another young man, on an identical mission, comes barreling into the store.

The difference between busty, battling babes and sprinting slackers tells a larger tale about male-oriented TV advertising these days. Not so long ago, commercials tailored to guys pushed a few predictable buttons -- sex, certainly, but also a kind of aggressive and crude frat-house humor. Bud Light -- to pick another prominent marketer to the football-watching demographic -- ran a series of commercials during Super Bowl 2004 that featured a dog that bit a man's crotch, a monkey that propositioned a woman, and a horse that passed gas in a couple's face.