It’s coming up on the tenth anniversary of this campaign. Mother of God, how times flies!

The Wassup! Campaign for Budweiser kicked ass even beyond my wildest dreams. And my wildest dreams were pretty wild.

I remember meeting Cliff “Where’s the Beef?” Freeman at an industry “top ten best ads of all time” party in New York in 2003. We both had ads in the top 10. Both were famous catch-phrase based ads. He said something that resonated with me. He explained “I didn’t want to be ‘the guy that did that one thing’ ”. I can relate. Wassup! is a bit of a bête noire as they say in Belgium. But a great one!

At the time some ad people doubted my claim that I had a vision for this. and that vision was pretty much what happened: America screaming “Wasssuuup!”. I never understood that. Why is that so inconceivable? Is it that unimaginable that someone might actually know what they’re doing in advertising.? If only I had, oh I don’t know, some proof that I did. Well it turns out that I do actually.

Recently I unearthed this document. My partner Chuck Taylor (real name) and I put it together late in 1999. We were a bit bothered and worried that although the Budweiser client had nominally bought the Wassup! idea, there was comparatively less action on our idea than other ideas bought at the same time. We were still waiting for the money to be released.

I feared they’d had second thoughts. And I feared that those second thoughts were based on the racial makeup of the proposed cast. I was wrong about that.

So I suggested we create something that implied that the train was rolling. And present them with the idea again. Real professional like!

So we created this presentation. Note the date. A month and a half before the first spot aired. I was close to despair!

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And here was my impassioned plea to resell the idea. I meant every word. And it pretty much came to pass. Phew!

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And here was Charles Stone’s treatment. The “RAY” he refers to was the role he ultimately ended up playing so wonderfully himself. At this point I figured acting and directing might be too much pressure for him. I was wrong. He was perfect. He was a star.

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I was so desperate to get the campaign done that I erroneously assumed that there was no way Budweiser would run ads featuring an all African-American cast. Their previous campaign featured cute and funny frogs and lizards. Call me crazy! So here I dangled the possibility of a multi-ethnic cast. Because I knew we would have to do at least some casting anyway. Turned out it was very hard to say ‘wassup!” correctly. We ended up with the original cast of Charles’ friends. Plus two new friends of his. Chemistry!

bud4

And this was the first script that I wrote to sell the idea. Has there ever been a less interesting sounding commercial script? I recall being really bored just typing it out.

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bud6

You can see the short film the campaign was based on here.

And this is the finished product. If you compare the two you’ll see how faithful we were to the spirit of the original short. We Just sped it up and added beer really.

12 responses to “It’s coming up on the tenth anniversary of this campaign. Mother of God, how times flies!

  1. Very nice to see the original pre production Waaasuuup stuff.

    In Holland (where everything is better, the sky is always blue and even junior copywriters are seen as ultimate celebrities/sex gods) our art director’s club award book was once totally done showing the original scripts, drawings, napkins which lead to the winning final work.

    It is the most interesting award book i own.

    And by the way, I totally believe you meant for the whole US to go waaaaasuuuup!

    But you are not selling me on Japanese people doing the same thing.

  2. By that I mean you could not have foreseen Japanese people doing that.

    Or Germans. Or Belgians.

    Seriously, I could go anywhere in Europe, go to a bar, have some beers and shout waaasup.

    Too bad Budweiser never looked at the campaign/europe hard enough to capitalize on that.

    (and now they are owned by freakin’ Inbev)

  3. yeah, that was the thing that surprised me too. but you have to remember that our brief was to create the most popular advertising in the USA. which was enough.

    i remember going back to Ireland in 2000 and seeing all the youth staggering out of the bars shouting Wassuup! instead of beating the shit of each other. where’s my nobel peace prize!

    the global popularity of the campaign was what made it special for me.

  4. “For Budweiser to come to mind every time someone greets someone else.”

    Yeah, thanks for that. Take it away Mr Hicks.

  5. You’re welcome. ;-) Bill was a funny guy. Have you seen his final Letterman appearance that never aired?

  6. “Hey, I’ll have a babycham.”

    It’s incredible that Bud were dragging their feet.
    I’d have got that idea shot straight away.
    Pitching ideas. This is a classic.

  7. i love that flick john. so true to life. life is pitching isn’t it. at least our lives can be.

    i once shot a spot parodying hollywood (in hollywood) and in the cast we had one of the producers of The Player playing a hollywood producer. he also had a cameo in The Player as a producer. he was a friend of our director. i thought my head would explode from sheer meta of it all.

  8. cool. never seen the original short film before.

  9. dan, it was good. funny coincidence: the editor in LA that made the dub that i first saw ended up cutting the spots too. completely coincidentally. eerie i thought

  10. But did you predict WAAAASSSAAABBBIIIIIIIIII!!!?

  11. no ben. didn’t see that one coming.

    that was my partner justin’s idea. it actually happened to him in real life. but i was happy to go along for the ride ;-)

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