These Commercials Show Why Budweiser Won the Beer Wars

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt |

© James Boardman / Alamy Stock Photo

With news that Anheuser-Busch could very well be acquiring SABMiller, creating the largest beer conglomerate in the world, we take a moment to look at the public face of both these stalwart domestic brew rivals. 

Beer has always been a competitive market. Like cigarettes in the 1950s, the fight has always been to become the preferred brand of a loyal consumer market who hands the legacy of that preference to their children and grandchildren (when they're old enough, of course). At least, that's how it used to be. Then came the 1960s, when Mad Men–era advertising became the closest thing to an art form the industry had ever seen. Some brands took risks, while others played it safe. And nowhere is that clearer than in the great Beer Wars between Miller and Budweiser.

Cut to the 1970s, when Miller usually tried to paint itself with class, evidenced in their catchphrase offerings like "It's Miller Time" and touting their High Life as "the champagne of beers."

Budweiser started similarly, with "This Bud's for you" and claiming the throne as "the king of beers."

Miller fire back by claiming to make the first Lite beer, which, I guess if you intentionally spell a word wrong you can be the first of anything you desire. While celebrities and athletes are usually a sure bet to move product, most of Miller Lite's ads were heavy on explanation to the point of being exhausting. In the 1970s version of the ad campaign, Nutrition Facts dominate the screen while Dick Butkus stands in a tennis sweater. And apparently they thought this was a good enough format to stick with for nearly a decade.

Meanwhile, Budweiser took the earworm approach, penning not one, but two radio-worthy anthems about their product. Miller could hardly compete on the songwriting front. 

Bud's other trump card? Animals. Budweiser's menagerie included the Clydesdales and their Dalmatian pal, Bud Light's Spuds McKenzie, the belch-esque drone of frogs and other swamp creatures, and adorable lost puppies.

Budweiser fired perhaps the final shots in the beer war with the pure genius of the Bud Bowl, the favorite halftime precursor to the Puppy Bowl. Sure, Miller had some funny ads over the years, but none seemed to garner the iconic status of their rival’s. Though they certainly tried (?):

Selling your beer with tepid hot dog water is certainly out of the box. By contrast, Budweiser had a lot more fun. (Remember "Wassup?") They took themselves seriously at times, combining heartstring-tugging moments with a playful streak in their campaigns. They also appealed to the mind, celebrating moments of genius:

Say what you will about the quality of the beer (and trust us, living in a golden age of beer, people have plenty to say about macro lagers), the world will always buy what you’ve got if you use a dog in sunglasses to sell it. Take it from Leon Redbone, this Bud's for you.

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