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Beer Commercials and Australia Drinking Cultures

Buckle in baby: The beer is on its way out

Imagine: It’s a hot summer’s day in Darwin and you’re heading to the pool. Ya best mates, Barry and Dave, five-year-old nipper Darren and your case of beer are jumping into the car. Strewth! There aren’t enough seatbelts for everyone. As Dave and Barry buckle in, you strap the beer in between them. Darren sits on the floor.

In May this year, a Darwin man was fined for securing his beer with a seatbelt and leaving his young child to sit on the floor of the car. Other than being a shocking incidence of neglect, the image is powerful: beer propped up in the back seat with a seatbelt, and a child sitting unsecured on the floor.

Ironically, this picture has many features in common with a television commercial for Carlton Draught. It stars a laid-back, beer bellied bloke, his case of beer and his steadfast commitment to downing a cold one. If you added a touch of dramatic music, a big budget and a deep-voiced Australian narrator, it’s not hard to imagine this as a risqu commercial. The promo line might read: “Choose Carlton, an escape from responsibility.”

Beer companies, such as Carlton Draught, Victoria Bitter and Tooheys, market a particular brand of Australian culture. The working class man is an identifiable comic tool used repetitively in beer commercials. Carlton Draught’s recent commercial “Flash Beer”, a parody of the 1980s hit movie Flash Dance, features an obese Anglo-Saxon man dancing his heart out for the love of beer. When you break this sequence down, you have an emotive sound track and a fat a man. In fact, when you break down any Australian beer commercial, you have an emotive sound track and a fat man. Not many other alcohol companies can use an unattractive and overweight man to sell their product. What is so appealing about these beer commercials, the fat man or the sweet beats? I would argue, neither.

Beer commercials are successful in using humour to tap into an anglo-centric and masculine national identity, sentimentally, defined as “Aussie”. The Flash Beer commercial represents a humble Australian truth: men work hard and drink hard. This work ethic in Carlton commercials is exaggerated and comical. In 2001, a clever Carlton commercial revealed what really goes on behind a bloke’s shed doors. After telling the Missus his going to fix the mower, our Carlton character retreats to his shed which secretly unfolds into a pub linked to his mate’s workshops. The fact that these guys prefer to chug down a cold beer, over hanging out with their wife, is a given. The idea that they might create an underground pub to escape domestic life is just another reminder that Aussie blokes will go to any length for a cold beer. Does that include seat-belting your beer, over your child?

If fat men, white skin, beer-bellies and irresponsibility seem authentically Australian, than it’s a fading identity. How many Australian men can actually relate to the Carlton character in a positive way? The beer-centric Aussie identity is exclusive and represents a small minority in this country. If beer companies want to continue to engage their audiences, they are going to have to look beyond regressive stereotypes of the Aussie male.

One last think to consider. There was only one question on the online blog about the baby over beer’ case. It read: “What brand of beer was it?”

Link to the online blog: