Advertising of America's Beer Companies and the Duff CorporationBy Jeffrey Katzin
FOX's hit animated series The Simpsons prides itself on its ability to effectively satirize popular culture in every episode. Therefore, the Duff Corporation is a means for which the writers of the show can mock the beer companies in America. Duff can be compared to the Anheuser-Busch Companies, the Coors Brewing Company, and the Miller Brewing Company. Each use television advertisements and sponsors to promote their products to the targeted audience of America's youth. The three companies also have varied their products to ensure that even if an individual does not like the taste of beer, he or she will be able to find a sweeter alcohol-filled alternative. Additionally, firms in the beer industry expand their influence to the entertainment and sports worlds to advertise and to associate certain messages and ideas with beer. The Duff Corporation in The Simpsons is an effective duplication of America's leading beer companies and is able to satirize the negative influences they have on society.
Every beer company utilizes themes in the advertising campaigns. "Targeted advertising refers to the specific imagery to create the 'personality' for a brand. Targeting also requires choosing media that will expose the intended market segment to the advertising (Saffer, "Alcohol advertising and youth")." The Anheuser-Busch Company bases its advertising on athleticism and humor. The symbol of the Budweiser Clydesdales affixes an association of speed, strength, agility and swiftness to the company. The company's slogan is "Budweiser - The King of Beer," to assert its dominance and superiority over rivals. In addition, Budweiser makes a draw for the average male sports fan. The "Bud Bowl" appears during halftime of modern Super Bowls and entertainingly pits bottles of Budweiser versus bottles of Bud Light to see which one will reign supreme. Additionally, during each Super Bowl, the company tries to come out with a new, humorous line of commercials that will leave viewers chuckling and having a positive attitude towards that brand of beer. Perhaps Budweiser is the most effective in this area; the Budweiser 2002 Super Bowl ad showed the average male with a date in his home. He goes to get a beer from his refrigerator in the kitchen and does a little dance, beer in hand, because he's excited with the progression of his date thus far. When he returns to his living room and gives his date her beer, she opens it and it explodes all over her since he shook it while dancing. Such is the method of humor used by Budweiser to attract their audience, particularly younger viewers who will be drawn in by the funniness. Other memorable ad campaigns of Budweiser include the three Budweiser Frogs who would alternate saying the syllables Bud-Weis-Er in different orders until arranging it accurately. A subsequent ad showed the frogs trying to latch their tongues onto the back of a Budweiser supply truck. The phenomenon with this line of advertising extended to shirts and other paraphernalia helping the public relations of the firm. Furthermore, the company did a study to test the effectiveness of the ads. "Nearly three-quarters of the 612 consumers quizzed who had seen the ads at least three times liked them. The ads were most popular among 18- to 24-year-olds - 88% of whom liked them (Enrico, "Budweiser frogs enchant viewers")." The company then introduced the Budweiser Lizards, who share the swamp with The Frogs and lament about their jealousy of their swamp mates' success and commiserate over their lost opportunity at stardom. Most recently, Budweiser introduced the Wassup Guys, a group of beer-drinking football friends who use conference calls to check up on the activities of their other friends. When push comes to shove and each is asked "whassup" or what they're doing, each character eventually responds "Not much - Watching the game, having a Bud." The other character then responds "True, True" and on screen appears "Truth" as if the company has an image of loyalty and truthfulness towards the consumer.
The Coors Brewing Company associates itself with the rugged outdoors. The late 1990's featured commercials based around the slogan, "Tap the Rockies, Coors Light." These commercials featured giant, skimpily-clad, young, attractive people playing volleyball, Frisbee, or bowling through the Rocky Mountains, each of course toting a Coors Light. In the past few months, Coors, the official NFL sponsor, has turned to two sexy, blonde, smiling, twin cheerleaders. The ad, entitled "Love," features an interpretation of love described by the following song:
Football on TV
Shots of Gena Lee
Playing with my friends
Burritos at 4 am
Parties that never end
Dogs that love cats
And I love you too!
(Here's to Love Songs!)
In the background, you see football clips, friends partying, skimpy outfits, twin girls waving at the camera, Gena Lee Nolin writhing around, and people dancing in bars (Domenech, "Love and Beer, Ad critic Style")."
The Miller Brewing Company's slogan for its newest drink, Miller High Life, is "Experience the High Life," and expresses the company's desire to be viewed as the intellectual, upper-class brand of beer. Miller used to associate itself with football players as their spokespersons and the "Miller Time by Dick" campaign in which an average-Joe named Dick told viewers "Relax; It's Miller Time." Since then, the company has changed the image to a more sophisticated reputation to differentiate itself from competitors such as Budweiser and Coors.
The Duff Corporation looks to take advantage of the typical Homer Simpson consumer through Duff Man, the athletic, suave, good-looking superhero spokesman. Duff Man's coined phrase is some masculine formed grunt of "Oh yeah" and usually is followed by some sort of body thrusting. In "Pygmoelian," Duff Man judges the Beertender of the Year competition. He is said to have come "straight from the House Subcommittee on Teenage Alcoholism." He greets the crowd and asks "Are you ready for some Duff Love? Oh yeah!" and then thrusts his pelvis. Once he pronounces the winner, Duff Man wipes his rear with a towel. Additionally, the stereotypical bubbly, attractive female bartender Tatyana, who consistently pours Duff on her cleavage, tells Duff Man after her loss in the contest, "You said if I slept with you I wouldn't have to touch the drunk." He responds, revealing the misogynist inside of him, "Duff Man says a lot of things." At the end of the episode, the surgically-repaired, good-looking Moe puts a sticker on Duff Man's face causing him to yell "Duff Man…Can't Breathe…Oh no" and he thrusts his pelvis up into the air once more. Furthermore, in "Hungry, Hungry Homer," Duff Man spots Homer starving himself to make a point that Duff should not move the Isotopes to Albuquerque. Duffman expresses his sighting of Homer by stating, "Duff Man - thrusting his pelvis in the direction of the problem. Oh yeah!" These examples demonstrate the masculine character of Duff Man who sets an example for kids of how they want to look when they grow up or what a cool, hunky man a young girl would want to date when she gets older. Also, with a slogan of "Can't Get Enough of that Wonderful Duff," clearly the company looks to depict alcohol as something that is a necessity rather than a luxury. In "Duffless," Homer visits the Duff Brewery where he gets a tour of the plant. In the advertising section, clips are shown of past commercials used including one from the cold war when a Duff drinker says "I knew I was a Commie 'cause I didn't drink Duff." In another spot, Nixon and Kennedy stop one of their heated debates to endorse the beer. Later in the episode, Homer sees a commercial for Duff in which characters McMahon and Tate pour Duff on picketing feminists transforming them into partying girls in bikinis. Other advertising techniques involve Duff's name on billboards, trains, and signs (even in Cuba).
It is not surprising that these companies look towards the young consumers or that The Simpsons looks to mock these tendencies. "A 1994 study of fifth- and sixth-graders showed that TV beer advertising was related to positive feelings about drinking and to an intention to drink. Eighty-eight percent of 12-year-olds could identify Spuds Mackenzie with Budweiser Beer…One of the studies found that after viewing ads for beer, youth were more likely to drink, drink heavily and drink in hazardous situations (Walsh, "Kids and Liquor Ads")." "…There is no mystery involved when we realize that beer commercials are very youth-oriented. Beer commercials link drinking with activities very popular among kids-volleyball, skiing, dancing, partying, etc. They also connect drinking with the emotional 'hot buttons' for kids-popularity, sociability, physical attractiveness, adventure and romance…Beer advertising is especially high during televised sporting events. This creates the psychological connection that athletes and alcohol go together (Walsh, "Kids and Liquor Ads")." Moreover, a study done by the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley in 1998 "established a direct relationship between awareness of beer commercials on television and the propensity to drink among 470 San Francisco-area students in grades seven through 10. [Researcher Joel Grube stated that] kids who said they liked the ads that they saw and paid more attention to the alcohol ads were more likely to drink. The two attributes that seemed to be getting kids' attention were humor and music (Dougan, "Humorous Beer Commercials Lure Children, Researcher Says")." Therefore, beer companies are vindicated with their target audiences based on research indicating that youth and middle-aged men are the best viewers.
The latest trend of producing 'Alco pop' drinks furthers the attempt to attract younger consumers by introducing them to lightly concentrated, good tasting alcoholic beverages rather than enforcing the hard stuff. These beverages have been advertised through commercials and television shows such as Friends, Big Brother 3, Fear Factor, Major League Baseball on CBS, and National Basketball Association games on ESPN. Anheuser-Busch's new product director told Advertising Age that, "'the beauty of this category is that it brings in new drinkers, people who really don't like the taste of beer' ("Teens tuning in to booze-branded 'Alco pop' ads despite industry's self-enforced ad standards"). Anheuser-Busch produces Michelob Ultra, Light, Golden Draft, and Golden Draft Light, Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Bud Ice Light, Busch, Busch Ice, Bacardi Silver, Tequiza, and Doc's Hard Lemonade. Coors produces Coors Original, Coors Light, Keystone Ice, Light, and Premium, and Zima. Miller makes Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Lite, Miller High Life, Jack Daniel's Hard Cola, Milwaukee's Best Light, Skyy Blue, Hamm's, Red Dog, and Stolichnaya's Citrona. Duff, as shown in "Duffless" and several other episodes, makes Duff, Duff Lite, Duff Dry, Duff Zero, and Düff -"the beer of Danish kings" (mocking the Budweiser 'King of Beers' slogan).
Finally, beer companies specialize in exerting influence in industries other than the beer industry. For example, Anheuser-Busch owns or sponsors the following parks: Sea World Orlando, Sea World San Diego, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Water Country USA, Sesame Place, Discovery Cove, and Adventure Island, and Busch Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. The Coors Brewing Company sponsors the NFL, Coors Field, home of baseball's Colorado Rockies, and the California Concert Venue Coors Amphitheatre. Miller Brewing Company sponsors Miller Park, the stadium for the Milwaukee Brewers. Molson sponsors the six Canadian NHL teams and the Molson Center, home of the Montreal Canadians.
Similarly, the Duff Corporation exerts its influence all over Springfield, in a way that ridicules and mimics the parks and messages of America's beer companies. In "Pygmoelian," Springfield celebrates "Duff Days - A Lost Day for the Whole Family." The Simpsons go to the fair and are greeted by a man in a beer costume who says "Drink Duff" and then whispers "responsibly" afterwards. The writers make an amusing statement regarding the lack of interest beer companies show in safety and protecting American citizens in depicting the "Duff Designated Drivers' Rockin' Fun Zone," which is a box surrounded by barbed wire and a chain lock. One attraction at the fair was the rowdy "Alco-Hall of Fame" featuring Ulysses S. Grant, Babe Ruth, and Benjamin Franklin all arguing with one another (the animatronics Ruth asks Franklin "Do you think you're better than me?" - a common drunkard's cry). Additionally, another ride was "The Tipsy-Whirl" which spun kids around to simulate how it feels to be drunk. This means of making beer appeal to children causes Milhouse to tell Bart, "This guy here, this is the guy!" The fair also features the "Beer Tender Contest" in which Moe, Tatyana (an attractive blond) and an Irish bartender all compete for the title of Beertender of the Year and a page of Duff's promotional calendar.
In "Selma's Choice," the kids want to go to Duff Gardens (an obvious mockery of Busch Gardens) after seeing the following commercial on television:
-"Hey, Lance Murdock. You've just jumped 16 blazing school buses. What are you going to do now?"
-"I'm going to Duff Gardens!"
-"Duff Gardens - home of the Whiplash (to be completed in 1994), and the washing machine and see the happiest fish in the world at our famous beerquarium. Come to Duff Gardens…now featuring the clean-shaven sounds of Hooray for Everything."
The use of stuntman Lance Murdock appeals to the adventuresome side of children and then cleverly designed names and gimmicks to the rides draw attention as well. The "beerquarium" shows burping fish in a big beer mug bumping into walls and looking hung over. Finally, the barbershop quartet-like group Hooray for Everyone makes the commercialized beer advertisement look appropriate for people of all ages. Once Selma takes Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, they spot "The Duff Beeramid," and "The Seven Duffs," four of them being Tipsy, Queasy, Surly, and Remorseful. At the "Beer Hall of Presidents" the animatronics Abraham Lincoln says "Four score and seven years ago we took the finest hops and barley to brew a refreshing, full-bodied lager." He drinks and then begins rapping; "Well, I'm rappin' AB and I'm here to say, if you want to drink beer, Duff's the only way." Here, the Duff Corporation uses a respected political figure in Lincoln, who children associate with honesty, to teach lessons about beer. At the souvenir shop, Bart picks up "Beer Goggles…See the world through the eyes of a drunk." Bart looks at Selma through the goggles and sees an attractive woman, poking fun at the increased sexual activity cause by drinking. Finally, the three go on "The Little Land of Duff," a copy of "It's a Small World." Children from around the world sing and smile during the ride as they gulp down mugs of Duff beer.
Duff also tries to move into the sports world, by renaming Springfield Stadium, "Duff Stadium," and buying the Springfield Isotopes, in "Hungry, Hungry Homer." Homer, on a new mission to help the little-guy, goes to the office of Owner H.K. Duff VIII and accidentally opens a closet filled with merchandise reading the "Albuquerque Isotopes." To fight for what he believes in, Homer goes on a hunger strike outside of the Stadium. However, Duff exploits him and uses him as a mascot in centerfield named "hungry, hungry Homer." He is a fan favorite as he sits in centerfield but the announcer tells the fans the he "won't eat until the Isotopes win the pennant," rather than the truth that his "hunger strike will not end until Duff admits they're moving the team." Eventually Homer is put in front of the microphone and tells the truth to the fans in Duff Stadium.
The writers effectively depict Duff as a media-crazed beer company. Duff advertises on TV and in society using similar techniques to America's beer companies; they use political figures, athletes, humorous commercials, stuntmen, and the superhero-like Duff Man. These methods clearly appeal to the youth market, in which viewers with in the market are proved to be more susceptible to consistent drinking habits. Additionally, Duff puts out similar strings of products as Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Miller, ranging from beer to light beers to 'Alco Pop' in attempts to present varied products in hopes to find one that children will find good-tasting. The influence in entertainment and sports market also exerts influence over children. Through amusement parks and fairs, Duff, like Anheuser-Busch, is able to indirectly (though more blatant than the real-world counterpart) introduce children to the beer market in a fun, more innocent and attractive manner.
The Duff Corporation is fairly successful in its methods as well. Bart and Lisa are pulled in by the Duff Days fair, as well as Duff Gardens. Furthermore, Homer explains in "Duffless," the first time her bought beer when he was 17 and used a fake ID. And look at him now; He takes nightly trips to Moe's, often drinks instead of spending time with his kids, has Duff while watching football on TV, quits drinking for a month but in following episodes continues to drink, etc. When faced with the prospect of losing alcohol from his lifestyle in "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment," he remarks "alcohol is a way of life. Alcohol is my way of life and I'm out to keep it that way!" At the conclusion of the episode he toasts the town of Springfield; "to alcohol," he says, "the cause of and solution to all of life's problems." The Duff Corporation has thus succeeded in copying the advertising techniques used by America's beer companies, hooking people like Homer, Carl, Lenny, Barney, and other various characters and turning towards the youth market to maintain its status as a profitable corporation.
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Coors Brewing Company. 14 November 2002. <http://www.coors.com>.
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"Duffless." The Simpsons. FOX. 18 February 1993.
Enrico, Dottie. "Budweiser frogs enchant viewers." USA Today. 14 November 2002. <http://www.usatoday.com/money/index/as010.htm>.
"Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment." The Simpsons. FOX. 16 March 1997.
"Hungry, Hungry Homer." The Simpsons. FOX. 04 March 2001.
Miller Brewing Company. 14 November 2002. <http://www.millerbrewing.com/home.asp>.
"Pygmoelian." The Simpsons. FOX. 27 February 2000.
Saffer, Henry. "Alcohol advertising and youth." Journal of Studies on Alcohol. March 2002: v63 i2 pS173(9). Infotrac. 10 October 2002.<http://web1.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/293/275/24924157w1.htm>.
"Selma's Choice." The Simpsons. FOX. 21 January 1993.
"Teens tuning in to booze-branded 'alcopop' ads despite industry's self-enforced ad standards." Medical Devices and Surgical Technology Week. 25 August 2002: 6. Infotrac.10 October 2002. <http://web1.infotrac.galegroup.com/itw/infomark/293/285/28221157w1.htm>.
Walsh, David. "Kids and Liquor Ads." The Washington Post 11 July 1997: A23. Lexis Nexis. 10 October 2002.
© Jeffrey Katzin, Tufts University, The Simpsons and Society, November 21, 2002.
Last updated on February 10, 2003 by Jouni Paakkinen (firstname.lastname@example.org)