Monthly Archives: September 2010


I worked on both the Budweiser and Bud Light brands for years.

This was the situation as long as I worked on them: Budweiser leaked market share like a professional leaker, while Bud Light grew at double digit rates every year for 15 years plus.

So it wasn’t all bad.

One was going up. One was going down.

Apparently that’s still the case.

There was a generational preference shift away from what were called the “domestic premiums”, ie American light lagers like Budweiser into ever lighter (lower calorie) beers.

It’s been going on for 30 years now and shows no sign of abating.

Lately it’s gotten a little absurd. Some ultra-light brews are now essentially little more than wet air. Surely the pendulum has to go the other way at some point, you would think.

Simultaneously, the American beer palate grew more sophisticated as a result of the craft brew resurgence in the 90s. Prohibition had killed regional brewers and there was suddenly a real thirst for more varied beers. Bad news for Bud. And that trend has understandably stuck. More beer is good. I like Bud, but I also like Guinness, for example.

And imports perceived as being more “sophisticated” (but are actually more skunky, yes I’m calling you out Heineken!) stole share from Bud too. It wasn’t uncommon for young Bud drinkers to switch to the sweaty green bottle when in more image-conscious drinking situations like nightclubs. That tells you something.

And oh yeah, spirits took off like a rocket ten years ago. Another torpedo to the stern of an already leaking ship. Less calories, more alcohol, more suave! Hard to beat that combo.

Budweiser just couldn’t catch a break!

And the truth is that Budweiser is a great beer. A light lager that is perfect for hot American summers.

And Bud’s worldwide popularity is telling too. There’s not a lot to dislike about Bud. It travels well for a reason.

Some think it’s too bland. I call those people beer snobs who urgently need to chill out, have a drink and shut the f**k up!

But that’s just me.

So I thought I’d give it the Bud problem a bit of a think and see what I could come up with.

!. GIVE IT AWAY FREE. I love this idea from Anomaly. Much like the Dennys free breakfast promotion. A national happy hour is a great way to stimulate trial that would otherwise simply not happen. Everybody loves free. Can’t argue with that.

Budweiser has a truly great story. It’s an American epic. Budweiser grew up with modern America. There are a ton of cool stories to tell. You’d just have to tell them in a really cool fashion.

3. TELL THE BUDWEISER QUALITY STORY IN A COOL WAY. A lot of Americans, especially the beer snobs, would be amazed at the lengths the brewery takes to ensure that every Bud tastes as good as the last.

4. TAKE ON HEINEKEN AND SAM ADAMS DIRECTLY. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that Sam Adams and Heineken are wonderful examples of how beer is all in the mind of the beer drinker. The facts here don’t support the images. Call them on their bullshit. Pick a fight. Fights are energizing.

As long as I’ve been in this country, 20 years now, I’ve been aghast at the state of draft beer in this country. It’s primitive to say the least. Only Stella Artois is taking advantage of this with their lovely tap and glass draft presentation. I remember years ago seeing a prototype Budweiser draft device. It superchilled the beer and it looked and tasted great. What happened to that? To get a decent Budweiser draft you have to leave the country basically. It’s much better in Ireland for example. That’s just wrong!

6. ONLY TALK TO THE OPEN-MINDED: THE YOUNG. Because the people involved in the creation of beer advertising (both client and agency) are usually older than 25 they can understandably forget that they are not the audience for the advertising. People can get set in their alcohol consumption habits pretty young. And they develop irrational biases as they go. Therefore only do ads that actively recruit new drinkers. There is a constant wave of new drinkers washing up on the shore. They’re the ones with the open minds. Just talk to them. Ignore you and me. We’re old!

7. HARNESS THE BUD ARMY. Budweiser is an iconic brand with a special place in the culture and in the hearts of Americans. Use that. That is powerful. I loved the Bud brand when I worked on it. And I always felt there was a great idea in evangelizing about the brand. Rather than focusing on the people who are currently rejecting the brand, which was the kneejerk reaction, tap into the love of Bud fans for the brand. There’s a lot of emotion there. Not a lot of brands can say that. But you’d have to do it in a real way. Not bullshit ads that pretend to do it. Do it for real.

8. DO GREAT ADVERTISING. I know it’s tempting to look at Budweiser as a patient with a heart attack on a gurney. And get frantic. And to do ads that reflect this. But the truth is that you don’t bore people into drinking your beer. Your declining sales are your problem. They don’t give a shit. What’s in it for them? Advertising will only get you so far but you still have to act like the cool guy to get everyone to like you. At the end of the day the beer you drink is an irrational decision governed by criteria that exist solely in YOUR head. I would cite the success of Sam Adams and Heineken as proof of this. Image alone works in their favor. How can it work in Bud’s favor? Maybe pure emotion will work.

9. I’m still working on number nine.

10. And number ten. Hey, get off my back. I’m busy!

More Carl Ally goodness

This book has become my new obsession. I loved this.

Carl Ally related stuff

Found this interview with Ed McCabe online. It’s interesting because it’s from 1968, not even one year on from his departure from Carl Ally. The earliest one I’ve seen.

You can almost smell the cigarette smoke.

And the fear of his staff ;-)

A premature review of the new Ally and Gargano book.

I say “premature” because I haven’t actually read the whole thing yet. There’s a lot to read here.

But I’ve sampled enough to love it.

There was never a chance I wouldn’t love it.

Dave Trott thought it didn’t compare well with George Lois’ book.

And they are very contrasting books. It does feel like an archive compared to George’s alive-with-life rants.

But that’s why I like it. I loved the case study format.

And the work they did was always on the money. Their work was always very obviously aimed squarely at the problem that faced the brand.

Here is just a smattering of the juice on offer in this hefty tome.

Why is advertising no fun anymore?

Ad Age recently published this article.

It mentions how many high-powered creatives feel that traditional advertising models (ie, the big ad agencies) are no longer fun.

And these guys were at the very top, making the most money. But money isn’t enough apparently.

Of course it isn’t.

Creative people really just want to make stuff. That’s why we got into this business.

That’s what we’re good at. Or should be good at.

But as you move up the chain of command at big agencies, the thing you trade off is fun.

Instead of fun you get money and you have to go to a ton of meetings about shit you really don’t care about. not a recipe for fun.

I predict an explosion of new creative agencies. you know why? because that’s the only way to have fun in advertising anymore. it’s a lot more fun to be a pirate than to be in the navy. better hats for one.

And I personally think the advertising holding companies may well be reaching their year zero. You can only suck so much cost out of something before it becomes a dried out husk that even a gentle breeze could blow away.

But luckily for advertising it looks like there is about to be an entrepreneurial explosion as the creators of the advertising once again seek their due.

It’s here!

It’s big. It’s comprehensive. It’s heavy. I love it.

There’s a lot to absorb and digest. 583 pages.

More later.


A plucky west of ireland director of my acquaintance just shot this.

it’s a documentary about a small irish coastal community’s fight against a SHELL OIL gas pipeline that was to be imposed on this community over their heads. it’s called THE PIPE.

if history has taught us anything it’s that Irish people will fight you to the end of time if necessary when their land is at stake.

My copy of the DVD is in the mail.

It was just shown in the Toronto International Film Festival.

They haven’t cut a trailer yet but this series of scenes.

and you can see the FB trailer here.

it looks kickass.