Ad critique: God and Pabst Blue Ribbon

This blog post is completely off-topic, but I wanted to share this photo with you. I am appalled by this advertisement. What are your thoughts? Am I overreacting?

I spotted this large ad as I was driving east on North Ave just before Western. I turned around and stopped to take these photos. This particular area of Chicago is called Humboldt Park. It’s also the neighborhood that my husband lived in when he first moved to Chicago in 1999. I consider the area to be dangerous — at least it was when my husband lived there. Although there is a vibrant Puerto Rican community (back then I loved driving under the Puerto Rican arch), there was a lot of drugs, crime, and gangs in the area back then. One of my schools is about 15-20 minutes away.

While I normally appreciate a good parody, I’m offended in this case. First, the placement of this ad in this neighborhood is troubling. What does this community need? A donation to a community center? Yes. Investment in Roberto Clemente High School (which coincidentally participated in Cooking up Change) several blocks south on Western? Yes. This tasteless ad for beer? NO. I have to wonder if any community would welcome this advertisement. Would your community want this ad displayed?

I am the daughter of a former art teacher so I appreciate art. Michelangelo‘s work on the Sistine Chapel and his depiction of God and Adam does not scream beer ad. In fact, in my opinion Michelangelo’s work borders sacred. Does God drink and endorse drinking beer? I find that offensive (and I’m not even religious). The ad is part of Pabst Blue Ribbon’s online art parody project. Beer ads are notoriously offensive, but is the company taking it too far?

What are your thoughts? Am I overreacting?

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34 thoughts on “Ad critique: God and Pabst Blue Ribbon

  1. I don’t believe it is an ad. I think it’s a mural that a local artist painted. Similar to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can pictures…those were not ads for Campbell. Do I like, but it’s not my neighborhood…

  2. Whoops! The link to the Pabst Blue Ribbon project wasn’t working for me so I wasn’t able to take a look….so in a way it is an ad for them…offensive to me: no….funny: no. It should probably be showcasing wine!

  3. Yes, you’re overreacting. This is a funny and clever advertisement. I would be happy to have it in my neighborhood.

  4. Well, I think religion is funny. I don’t think it’s offensive. I think it’s a little funny – not hilarious, but eh. I wouldn’t care if it were in my neighborhood.

  5. Very tasteless, but the world attacking God in some way, shape or form (in this case art and marketing) isn’t new. Sad, but we sell everything, even God.

  6. I don’t find it offensive either… I’m not religious at all so that may have something to do with it. Also, Humboldt Park has come a long way since 1999 – it’s definitely becoming a vibrant neighborhood and attracting young families. It certainly has it’s problem areas but it’s improving for sure as far as safety goes.

  7. FWIW, I’m with you… just as I loathe the cigarette ads anywhere, but especially in poor areas. On the one hand, I’m glad it’s not more bikini babes. On the other…ugh.

  8. “Does God drink and endorse drinking beer?”

    Trappist monks do. They brew and sell traditional beers. The Orval website shows a stained-glass window that appears to feature a beer kettle.

    Historically, some monks drank beer (“liquid bread”) as their nourishment during periods of fasting.

    The history of beer is really fascinating. I am a homebrewer and respect beer as a traditional artisanal food product. I don’t care for PBR, but am not offended by the mural/ad.

  9. I would much rather have that ad in my neighborhood than most other ads. It doesn’t use sex to sell anything.

    Sure, it’s an ad for beer, which many may offend many, and it’ parodies a great work of art, which may offend many more. However, I like it when great works of art are in the public consciousness, and parodies are one way to keep them there. Granted, the sistene chapel is, no doubt, higher class than a beer ad (or any ad, for that matter) but I still don’t mind.

  10. lunch lady, I like you but I agree w/ the others– I think it is a mural. Whatever it is, it got your reaction which is likely the intent. I am not offended b/c I think its art. If its not then its bizzare. Would not do well where I live (northshore) unless it was in a gallery ; )

  11. All things considered, this is just about the least offensive beer ad I’ve ever seen. I would much rather see a parody of art than a scantily clad woman. A few years back a beer company (can’t remember which one) had an ad that compared the shape of a bottle of beer to a woman’s body and I couldn’t even stand to look at it. I’d rather expose kids to this (and have it raise curiosity about art, parody, social commentary, culture, etc) than show them it’s okay to objectify women at every opportunity.

  12. Hello,

    I think this is an artist mural – and it might be a parody, or meant to spark dialogue in the neighborhood. I have lived in neighborhoods like this – and a mural can start people talking.


  13. I am not offended by it at all, and I find it mildly amusing. Also – that ad got you thinking/talking about it (which is more than can be said for most billboards) and you expanded its reach to everyone who reads your blog. As far as the ad is concerned, that is a success.

  14. How dare they violate the sanctity of the Pope’s private naked dude mural? (joke not mine) No matter how you feel about it, God would drink PBR (you don’t get to be in charge by spending all the tithe money on quality beer).

  15. I find it mildly amusing although once I sit down to analyze it I find it much less so. This particular work of art is widly parodied. Why shouldn’t a beer company do it too? I’m not sure what’s going on in the left half of the ad, though. As others have said, it’s nice to see a company selling something by using something other than women’s bodies.

  16. I immediately recognized where you’ve taken this photo. I live a couple of streets away! I think this area must have improved, safety wise, since your husband lived here.

    Admittedly, I’ve passed this ad several times, and what it actually was had never registered with me until you pointed it out. I’m not really sure how I feel about it, but I wouldn’t say you’re overreacting. You’re allowed to feel however you want!

  17. I’m an artist, went to art school for 7 years at an incredibly liberal college, have worked in art galleries for 14 years and I’m not offended. I agree with the others that it is a Warholesque mural. It’s my opinion, though. I understand your view and am not in anyway telling you not to be offended. I understand if it doesn’t work for you. Difference is what makes the world go ’round.

  18. Not offensive, I find it clever. I am more offended that you think neighborhood doesn’t change in, what, 11 years? I have enjoyed your blog, but at times, you can be a little, strident? Parody has been around forever, and picking at art/religion is nothing new.

  19. I hate to say this, but, I have to wonder how many people won’t even catch the reference to the Sistine Chapel?

    There’s no other indicator that it’s about God or religion, so if they don’t make that connection, then it changes the image entirely: The ad could actually be construed as two naked, muscled guys sharing a beer together. So in that regard, perhaps it’s really a pro-gay message? 😉

    (Sidenote: I think it’s pretty funny that God gets the 24 ounce beer while Adam only gets the 16.)

  20. I don’t find it offensive at all. It immediately brought to mind that T-shirt with the Benjamin Franklin quote — “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

    Though after checking the site, it seems Franklin was talking wine, not beer. “For the record, here, in a letter addressed to André Morellet in 1779, is what Benjamin Franklin actually did say:

    Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

    (Source: Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2003. p.374.)”

  21. You’re overreacting. That’s based on a mural painted by an artist (Michelangelo) for a very very wealthy organization (Th Catholic Church), commissioned by a Pope who fathered at least 1 child (ignoring his vows of celibacy) while Pope. The Sistine Chapel was painted in honor of Pope Sixtus, who approved of/encouraged slavery (for Africans), furthered the horros of the Spanish Inquisition and traded sex for promotions (from men under his supervision in the Catholic Church leadership.)

    I also wonder if this is an ad. I think it’s a modern-era mural painted by an artist.

  22. Listen, if someone tried to tell me my neighborhood was too ghetto for a fucking Pabst mural to be placed there, I’d be offended by their assumptions that me and my fellow residents can’t handle the same exposure to advertisement that the rest of the world can. Who are you to suggest censorship in this or any other area? Even if you were a current resident of that area . . . your choices for other people seem limiting at best and close-minded at worst.

  23. As the wife of a Preacher, I do not find it offensive. Of course we enjoy such movies as Dogma and Saved! as well. Parodies of religion are a good way to start a discussion or interest in a religion that may not have otherwise happened. And honestly, I really feel God has a sense of humor, but I do think he would probably drink a craft beer and not PBR 🙂

  24. I am not offended, but I guess I can see how someone could be. As advertising goes, this piece is actually quite pleasing to the eye, as well as humorous and witty.

  25. in all honestly this is nothing new with the alcohol industry since many famous artists such as keith haring did art work for liquor companies. Maybe we should take a minute and think though how this communicates through visual culture.

  26. To me, there are so many other things to get upset about. This is not one of them.

    Also, as a formerly religious and now-irreligious person, I find Jennifer Souza’s comment to be right on. The church is not sacred. What is sacred? The right to choose how to live one’s life, for one thing.

  27. I also don’t find it offensive, and I agree with the person who said it wasn’t an ad.

    It looks like a mural, to me. Just because it features a product, that doesn’t mean it’s an ad. (Remember Andy Warhol’s soup can paintings etc.?)

    Wait, I think we’re both right! The upper right corner of the painting says “” so I went there. Check it out:

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