SBD/Issue 93/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Super Bowl Ads: Anheuser-Busch Chooses Humor Over Clydesdales

Clydesdales Not Appearing In Anheuser-Busch's
Super Bowl Ads For First Time In Years
Anheuser-Busch's "iconic Budweiser Clydesdales have been sidelined" from A-B's "slate of nine ads" that will appear during CBS' telecast of Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, according to Todd Frankel of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The company "remains a big spender on Super Bowl ads, buying up five precious, pricey ad minutes" during the game, but the Clydesdales will not appear "for the first time in at least eight Super Bowls." Instead, A-B is "using humor ... to push leading brands Bud Light and Budweiser, complemented by shorter nods to Michelob Ultra and the new, low-calorie, Select 55." A-B's Super Bowl ads "range from scientists turning to Bud Light as they worry about an Earth-bound asteroid, to a small town working to rescue a beer truck, to a spoof of popular TV series 'Lost.'" Frankel notes A-B's five Bud Light ads, via Cannonball, St. Louis, all "take aim at being funny." In one spot, a "husband on his way to play softball interrupts his wife's book club when he sees Bud Light is being served," while in another friends are "amazed by a house built of blue Bud Light cans." The two Budweiser ads, scheduled to appear in the second and fourth quarters, "emphasize how the brand brings people together." A-B InBev VP/Marketing Keith Levy yesterday said that the decision not to use the Clydesdales was an "unintentional outcome of focus-group testing." Levy: "We did produce a Clydesdale spot. And we do continue to utilize Clydesdales in our marketing for Budweiser. But at the end of the day, I don't choose the spots. Brand managers don't choose the spots. The consumers do." Levy added that the emphasis on humor is a "reaction to consumers worrying about the continuing economic slump and glum news overseas" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 1/27).

MORE DETAILS OF THE ADS: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott noted "don't look" for Bud Light's ads "to be centered on 'drinkability,' an attribute the beer brand has spent more than a year promoting." Bud Light's five spots instead are "scheduled to be devoted to unveiling a new theme for Bud Light, 'Here we go.'" However, Levy "played down the significance of the disappearance of the drinkability theme." Levy: "It's sort of a planned evolution." Elliott noted neither of the two Budweiser spots are "laugh-out loud funny, but one is more light-hearted than the other." Meanwhile, A-B's ad for Michelob Ultra comes via Palm & Havas, Chicago, and will feature cyclist Lance Armstrong (NYTIMES.com, 1/26).

CHANGE OF DIRECTION: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Suzanne Vranica writes A-B's new direction for Bud Light "comes as sales of the brand are sputtering." The brand had its "worst year in 2009, suffering its first annual decline in volume since its launch in 1982." A-B's Super Bowl push also is "likely to come under extra scrutiny because this will be the first round created without" former Exec VP/Global Industry Development & CCO Bob Lachky, a "20-year marketing veteran" who left the company last year (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/27). The AP's Emily Fredrix noted A-B "shifted away a bit from one of its main agencies, DDB, which last year did all but one" of the brewer's Super Bowl ads. The agency this year was only responsible for the two Budweiser ads. Meanwhile, Fredrix noted A-B each year "films more Super Bowl commercials than it can use and then airs the ones that do best in consumer testing." However, the company "still may change its lineup at the last minute before the game" (AP, 1/26).

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