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