Tag Archives: budweiser

Shot this years ago. Just found it.

I am a huge fan of the film PUTNEY SWOPE.

Not because it’s about advertising.

Because it was so mindblowingly ambitious and well executed.

If you haven’t seen it i highly recommend you do so.

It made a huge impression on me and I shot this in tribute to it.

It’s an homage to this commercial created by Putney Swope’s ad agency.

I based it on the fact that it would always blow American’s minds when i told them that Budweiser was the number one selling lager in Ireland.

Because of Irish people’s, ahem, expert drinker status, it meant that Budweiser must actually be a good lager. Something a lot of Americans simply didn’t want to be true.

And when I would tell them this, they would invariably react like this guy. BTW, this actor, Ned Eisenberg, was phenomenal.

Clint Eastwood cast him as SAL in MILLION DOLLAR BABY. He also played the badass Hasidic Jewish guy in the first season on The Sopranos.

Learn from the, ahem, real man of genius.

Just found these the other day.

It’s an interview with Bob Lachky, former head of advertising at Anheuser Busch. The guy to whom we used to present our ideas for Budweiser and Bud Light when I worked on those brands.

He’s the guy who approved such pop culture advertising classics these gems.

YES I AM for Bud Light.

I LOVE YOU MAN for Bud Light.

THE BUDWEISER LIZARDS. AND FROGS.

REAL MEN OF GENIUS for Bud Light

And my personal favorite…

As you’ll see, Bob should run for US Senate. He would win in a landslide.

Instead he chose to oversee the creation of some of the best advertising in the world.

Bob and his colleagues really understood their business and the advertising business and the media in general.

So perhaps more credit than I’d like to admit should go to Bob and the guys at A-B for their role in creating some really great advertising over the years.

More than once he made a call about something in one of my ads that I only realized later was of critical importance.

The story that many people, including many in the media, wanted to believe was how hard it was to sell our brilliant ideas to that stupid enormous beer client.

And nothing could have been further from the truth. They were the center of excellence. Not us.

As you’ll see.

Everyone interested in advertising, marketing and the media should watch this four part masterclass.

TEN THINGS BUDWEISER COULD DO TO REVERSE ITS DECLINE IN SALES.

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.

2. TELL THE BUD HERITAGE STORY IN A COOL WAY.
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.

5. OWN DRAFT BEER.
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!

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!

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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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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.

Is Budweiser about to get emotional? *********sniff!*********

In a recent Ad Age article it is reported that Budweiser is considering a return to what is termed “emotional” advertising. Usually in the context of beer and esp. Budweiser, “emotional” means doing something reminiscent of the classic 1980s beer ads where beer was portrayed as a reward for a hard day’s work. Steel mill workers wiping their sweaty brows and having that first sip of beer. And that is completely valid. In our culture beer is the agreed upon means of letting off a little steam and relaxing.

But a lot has changed since the 1980s. Blue collar workers and blue collar jobs no longer dominate the culture. “After a hard day’s code-writin’, nothin’ beats a Bud” just doesn’t have the same ring to it. And “emotional” beer advertising is a lot harder to sell and execute do than comedic beer advertising. A belly laugh is a lot easier to gauge than a lump in the throat.

The problem with purely comedic beer ads is they can lack texture. You see them, you laugh, it’s over. Nothing sticks with you.The problem with purely emotional beer ads is that they can be too gooey for guys. “Come on dude, it’s only beer!”.

Part of the problem lies in the beer purchase decision process itself. It’s a lot more tricky than it might seem. The beer you drink says something about you. You drink Pabst Blue Ribbon? Then you live in Williamsburgh Brooklyn you’re 25 and wear Threadless t-shirts and ironically intended trucker hats. And it’s 2004…winking smiley face. You drink Budweiser? Then you…live in Ohio, you’re an average American. You probably like stuff…that’s cool. etc. I remember a great Bud print ad that read “What drinking one says about you is that you don’t care what drinking one says about you”. Which neatly sums up Bud’s place in the culture. It’s THE BEER in the USA. Like Guinness is in Ireland. It’s hard to both special and THE BEER in your culture. Budweiser is “special” in other countries where American beer is seen as exotic and cool much as Guinness is outside of Ireland.

One thing that I always found very telling and maddening about Budweiser in America was this. Young Bud drinkers would sometimes switch to Heineken when in a public social situation like a night club, ie when their image mattered. The glowing green bottle was considered smoover despite the fact that its contents had taken six months to get into your hand and so frankly couldn’t taste as good as Budweiser. But that just reinforces my point that with beer, it’s all in your head.

It’s easy to play laptop quarterback and tell Budweiser what they should and shouldn’t be doing. When I worked on the Budweiser business there was no shortage of people coming up to me and telling me what we should and shouldn’t do. Everyone is very familiar with both beer and tv commercials. But that doesn’t equate to experience of actually brewing and marketing beer in this country at this time. It’s a very big ship that moves very slowly.

Budweiser’s big problem hasn’t been brand image. Its problem is that for 25 years there has been a generational shift in taste preference away from light lager (Budweiser) to ever lighter and lighter lagers (Bud Light, Mich Ultra). So while on the one hand it (A-B) was losing share on Budweiser it was picking it up on Bud Light and Mich Ultra.

So will a more “emotional” approach work for Bud? Yeah, sure it could. At its core, a beer brand is your friend. Ideally your best friend. When you think about it, young beer drinkers ONLY associate their beer brand with fun and good times. Nobody ever cried tears of pain while drinking beer. That’s what whiskey is for!

So anything that works to “make friends” for the brand is a good thing. It’s all in the execution. And that’s why Budweiser, frankly, needs The Escape Pod. It’s not simply a matter of understanding the beer category or the Bud brand, it’s a matter of putting something on the TV that works like magic. And that’s the really tricky part.

Emotional beer advertising. Easy to parody, hard to create.

The end of an era. Bob Lachky leaves Anheuser-Busch.

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You know all those Budweiser and Bud Light ads you’ve loved over the years?  Well the man largely responsible for overseeing the creation of all of them – Bob Lachky – has left the brewery.

It is no exaggeration to say that I, and many other ad folks, owe our careers to Bob’s good judgment and steady nerves over the years.  If Bob liked your ad it very probably got done the way you wanted it to get done.   There were no nervous, interfering clients on Budweiser shoots.  They trusted us to get it done.  It wasn’t unusual to have no client at all present on a shoot.  I actually didn’t like that because I would end up trying to play client and annoy everyone in the process.

Ad geeks might be surprised to know that Bob started out as an account guy on Bud Light at DDB.   And was later hired by August Busch III to supervise the various A-B ad agencies output.  Bob’s somewhat senatorial demeanor could be misleading to the uninitiated.  He had surprisingly great creative and executional instincts.  I hesitate to tell the following story because it makes me look slightly bad, but here goes.

At the pre-production meeting the day before we shot the original Wassup! Ads, Bob asked me why the tagline at the end of the scripts read “This Bud’s for you”, their tagline at the time.  I uncertainly replied: because…it’s…your…tagline…Bob.

The short film we based the ads on was called “TRUE”.  And that word fluttered briefly on the screen at the end.  Bob, correctly, felt the ads in our campaign should end with that title too.  So we did that.  And I’m glad we did. It just felt right. I didn’t think it made that much difference at the time but it did as the campaign took off and ultimately became known as the TRUE campaign.

I’m not sure what Bob’s plans are.  I think he should write a book. I told him that the last time we met.  Write a book Bob!  There.  That should do it.

And so l hoist a beer-clean pilsner glass of Bud (poured down the middle to release the carbonation, natch) in his honor.   Here’s to you Mr. Great Beer Commercial Getter on the Air Guy.

Good luck Bob, and swing by The  Escape Pod next time you’re in Chicago.

Too hot for TV! Vol. 5

This is the fifth, and perhaps final in our series of unaired commercials. They kind of go downhill a bit after this one. winking smiley face.

You can see the others here, here, here, and here.

This one was weird.

Shortly after the first Wassup! spots started airing it became apparent that there was an appetite for online parodies. So we figured who better than us to do a parody of our own thing. After talking things over with the director Charles Stone, we settled on a few that we knew would be hard for the general public to pull off, ie they involved real production expertise. The obvious and smart thing was to go “What’s 180 degrees away from young African-Americans yelling into phones?”.

I remember we rejected the idea of country club white guys doing it as being unnecessarily racially divisive. Goodby Silverstein apparently didn’t think so. They jumped on the bandwagon with exactly this idea a year later. And won a gold Clio with it. I will forever hate them with the intensity of a thousand suns for doing that. I’m kidding Jeff! Seriously, I’m kidding.

But one idea that we all liked was the idea of having Old Ladies watching a game show having a Bud. The elderly ladies in the spot were blissfully unaware of the Wassup! phenomenon. Which made it even funnier. They had absolutely no idea what they were doing. I vividly recall nearly dying laughing when we shot the scene in the garden as the elderly actress screamed urban slang into her phone. “Wassup money grips???” etc. It was the first time we did something that mirrored or echoed the original wassup template. It would not be the last. That kind of became our job. Doing new variations on that one thing. Over and over. we got real good at it too!

The reason it didn’t air was that there was just something off-putting about grandmas drinking beer in the middle of the day in an ad for budweiser. it just felt wrong to the clients. and that was cool.

but the funny part was that the very next month…this wassup parody swept the internet! the exact same idea. it was like clockwork. and it was kind of eerie. but the good part though was that the spot we produced — much better execution IMHO — was eligible to be included in our Grand Prix-winning entry to the Cannes advertising festival. and it was a big hit en France. so in a sense it did actually air. but only in the palais at Cannes. and it did its damage there. so thank you old ladies. Merci!

FUN FACT: The New Jersey house where we shot our spot was the same house used to shoot Hesh’s home scenes in The Sopranos.