Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Released by Apple Computer, Inc., in November 2001, the iPod rapidly grew in sales and by 2005 had become the world’s top-selling MP3 player. With a 1,000-song capacity, the first iPod worked only with Apple computers and retailed at $400. From 2003 to 2005, however, Apple ferociously promoted five new Windows-compatible iPod models, along with the company’s digital music store, iTunes. In an attempt to define the fun associated with the iPod brand and to steer advertising away from the Apple computer, the company released its ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign.
In October 2003 ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day (TBWA\C\D) introduced outdoor ‘‘Silhouette’’ ads in Los Angeles, followed by a nationwide print and television launch. All ads displayed black silhouettes of people listening to white iPods and dancing in front of radiant green, yellow, fuchsia, and pink backgrounds. The television spots were accompanied by upbeat music from bands like N.E.R.D. and the Black Eye Peas. The band U2 shocked fans and critics in 2004 by endorsing iPod through the release of a new single, ‘‘Vertigo.’’ Shrugging off criticism, U2’s front man, Bono, stated that the iPod was ‘‘the most beautiful object art in music culture since the electric guitar.’’ Seventy-two hours after the U2 endorsement, Apple stock reached a 52-week high of $53.20 per share. Apple reportedly spent $49.6 million on the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign between January and August of 2004.
Not only did ‘‘Silhouette’’ earn TBWA\C\D a Global Effie from the New York American Marketing Association and a Kelly Award from the Magazine Publishers of America, the agency was nominated as the U.S. Agency of the Year for 2004 by Adweek. Even though analysts’ early forecasts for iPod sales were $400 million, product improvement and the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign helped Apple reach an incredible $1.2 billion in net sales during the first quarter of 2005 alone. Despite the fact that iPod’s market share had dropped from 92 percent in October 2004 to 87 percent by March 2005, demand still overshadowed supply.

Led by CEO Steve Jobs, Apple held a meager 2.5 percent share of the worldwide computer market in 2001. Learning from its proprietary mistakes in the 1980s, the company released Windows-compatible iPods in 2002. Apple also allowed third-party companies like BMW, Bose Corporation, and Griffin Technology to create iPod accessories, which led to more than $100 million in sales in 2004. Apple even allowed Hewlett-Packard to release the Apple iPod from HP.
The first commercial for iPod, also created by TBWA\C\D, aired in 2001. It showed a bespectacled man huddled over an Apple iBook. At first the audience heard only the man’s clicking keyboard, until music from Propellerheads’s ‘‘Take California’’ grew louder. By the end of the spot it became apparent that the man was downloading music onto his iPod. Next TBWA\C\D shifted away from computer-centric ads to develop spots with people singing out loud while wearing iPods. One commercial, which featured a young boy singing Eminem’s ‘‘Lose Yourself,’’ resulted in a lawsuit by Eminem, but it was settled amicably.
Apple needed success from the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign. By 2002 the company still had only 5 percent of the computer market. ‘‘The history of Apple is a long, complicated business story with a lot of mistakes made,’’ Lee Clow, worldwide chairman and chief creative officer of TBWA\C\D, told Advertising Age. ‘‘Particularly the decision to stick with a proprietary system for PCs which resulted in Microsoft’s dominance.’’ In 2004 iPod contributed 23 percent of Apple’s earnings. Jobs said that iPod sales ‘‘should also help introduce Windows users to Apple’s clever and stylish designs, thus encouraging more PC users to switch to Macintosh computers.’’ Apple hoped that the fun-oriented, carefree format of the ‘‘Silhouette’’ ads would appeal to a more inclusive audience than past campaigns had. Instead of pitting itself against Microsoft or PCs, Apple wanted to focus solely on the fun associated with the iPod in order to solidify its position as the top-selling MP3 player.

According to Beth Snyder Bulik of Advertising Age, iPod’s target market ‘‘is wide, including current iPod owners looking for a second device; Gen X parents now willing to bankroll the $100 to placate their teens; and consumers with more modest income.’’ Experts like Seth Godin, an author of marketing books, explained to the Dayton Daily News that the target demographic was much larger:
‘‘It’s unusual for a product like this to cross all the gender and age lines right away, but iPod is doing both.’’ U.S. President George W. Bush, singer and songwriter Tom Petty, Queen Elizabeth II, and even the late motionpicture star Marlon Brando all owned iPods. ‘‘The new ads do a terrific job of seducing and selling, of making the target turn on and want the product, now,’’ Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of Euro RSCG Worldwide, told USA Today. ‘‘Interestingly, the ads also transcend nationality and age. They are about an Apple state of mind.’’
Ad Track, USA Today ’s weekly consumer survey, stated that across age groups the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign was most popular with 25- to 29-year-olds. For consumers between the ages of 50 and 64, 19 percent gave ‘‘Silhouette’’ ads the highest possible rating. The iPod’s compatibility with illegally downloadable music drew criticism from some, however. Eric Garland, president of Big Champagne (a company that tracks Internet file
The iPod U2 Special Edition. sharing), told the Irish Times, ‘‘If anything, the illegal MP3 user base makes up a large part of the target market.’’ By using contemporary pop music, the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign directly targeted fans of N.E.R.D., the Caesars, Daft Punk, Jet, the Black Eye Peas, and, most famously, U2. This last group, notorious for turning down multimillion-dollar endorsements, not only gave Apple consent to use its music but actually released its single ‘‘Vertigo’’ in a 30-second ‘‘Silhouette’’ spot.

South Korea’s ReignCom Ltd., trying to move into an MP3 market dominated by iPod, which had 92 percent of sales in 2004, launched an outdoor, print, and Web campaign for its iRiver player; the campaign featured porn star Jenna Jameson. The iRiver PMC 140 boasted video capabilities but was priced $200 above Apple’s iPod Photo. Earlier versions of iRiver MP3 players had featured radio tuners and voice recorders that were not available on iPods. For the promotion of iRiver’s H10 model, print ads showed people listening to their MP3 players and biting into apples along with the tagline ‘‘Sweeter One.’’ In 2005 iRiver ranked second in terms of market share.
By 2002 Sony Corporation, which had dominated the portable music market during the 1980s and 1990s, had lost considerable ground to the Apple iPod. In 2004 Sony released the Network Walkman, an MP3 player resembling the iPod in price and features and that was user-friendly. Sony’s U.S. advertising, lead by Young & Rubicam, featured music by Macy Gray. Advertisements in Europe, however, used edgier music by bands like Teddy Bears STHLM. One commercial featured the painter Liam Yates listening to a Sony MP3 player and working on an image resembling a ‘‘Silhouette’’ ad. In 2005 Sony released its PlayStation Portable (PSP), a handheld gaming device that played MP3s. Early on industry analysts had forecast that the PSP would be an ‘‘iPod killer,’’ but its release had little effect on iPod’s market share.

TBWA\C\D introduced outdoor ‘‘Silhouette’’ ads in Los Angeles during the second week of September 2003, immediately after Apple had announced earnings of $2.15 billion for its third fiscal quarter. On September 15 TBWA\C\D launched ‘‘Silhouette’’ print ads in newspapers. In October ‘‘Silhouette’’ ads appeared in music, sports, and men’s magazines. The campaign’s first television spot, with Duncan Milner and Eric Gunbaum as creative directors, featured silhouettes of people wearing iPods and dancing to the Black Eyed Peas’s ‘‘Hey, Mama.’’
The first three commercials were directed by Dave Myers, who, Milner told Adweek, ‘‘was great in that he knew the best choreographers, knew the dancers and knew a lot about the music.’’ In fact, it was Myers who had originally suggested that TBWA\C\D use ‘‘Hey, Mama.’’ In later television spots Myers used Jet’s ‘‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’’ and N.E.R.D.’s ‘‘Rock Star.’’ ‘‘Silhouette’’ print ads used taglines such as ‘‘Welcome to the digital music revolution’’ and ‘‘More than 1 million iPods have been sold.’’
According to Advertising Age, Apple’s U.S. advertising budget from January to August 2004 was $49.6 million. Later in 2004 Apple spent $20 million worldwide to promote its 30-second U2 ‘‘Silhouette’’ spot using ‘‘Vertigo,’’ a single from the band’s new album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. The commercial starred U2, partially silhouetted against fuchsia, green, yellow, and blue backgrounds. In addition to the commercial, U2 cobranded with Apple by releasing the single exclusively on iTunes. Apple then released a special red and black iPod U2, with the band members’ autographs engraved on the back casing.
The iPod U2 shipped with a $50 coupon toward the download of iTune’s The Complete U2, a collection of 25 years of U2 albums. Explaining why U2 had chosen iPod for its first endorsement, Bono told the Chicago Tribune, ‘‘We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video. We chose the director. We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche? When it’s unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio? So we piggybacked this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded.’’ The band was not paid for the ‘‘Vertigo’’ ad.
Apple continued using the ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign well into 2005 to promote variations of the iPod, not only the iPod U2 but also the iPod Photo, iPod Mini, and iPod Shuffle, as well as its 99-cents-per-song online store, iTunes.

The iPod ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign drew an outpouring of knockoffs. One came from a Fuse TV outdoor ad that showed a silhouetted Iraqi war prisoner next to a bomb resembling Apple’s logo and with the copy ‘‘iRaq.’’ Apple was reportedly infuriated by the ad. Fuse TV also produced an ad with a silhouetted stripper who pole danced next to the tagline ‘‘fuse music television. watch different.’’

Even U.S. President George W. Bush owned an iPod. A 2004 birthday gift from his daughters, Bush’s 10,000-song-capacity iPod only held 250 songs when its existence became known in 2005. The president’s iPod consisted of a song list predominantly made up of male artists. Busy with other things, Bush did not have time to set up the iPod himself, and he instructed an aide, Blake Gottesman, to purchase the songs from iTunes. Notable songs on the president’s play list included ‘‘Fortunate Son’’ by Credence Clearwater Revival and ‘‘Don’t Drink That Wine’’ by NWA. Joe Levy of Rolling Stone quipped, ‘‘One thing that’s interesting is that the president likes artists who don’t like him.’’

Despite critics who accused Apple of overusing the campaign, ‘‘Silhouette’’ dramatically helped iPod move to the forefront of the market for portable music. The U2 spot alone bolstered Apple’s stock to a 52-week high in 2004, which added $2 billion to Apple’s overall market value. In 2004 sales of the iPod peaked, with 92 percent of the market share; this slipped to 87 percent by March 2005. Andrew Shafer, a writer for the Iowa State Daily, wrote, ‘‘[iPod’s] popularity may be attributed, at least in part, to a simple dancing Silhouette. The Silhouette, although faceless and unidentifiable, has given an identity to the iPod.’’ Despite losing ground to emerging MP3 players, in 2005 Apple reported its 16 millionth iPod sold, and iTunes was providing 82 percent of the world’s legally downloadable songs. Accessories for the iPod alone yielded $100 million in 2004.
The ‘‘Silhouette’’ campaign earned TBWA\C\D a number of prizes, including the $100,000 Kelly Award, presented by Magazine Publishers of America for the best ad competition. It also helped TBWA\C\D earn Adweek ’s honor as Agency of the Year in 2004 and a Grand Effie in 2005. ‘‘One can look at the iPod ads and easily see it’s a very good campaign,’’ Eric Einhorn, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at McCann Worldgroup, stated in the Iowa State Daily. ‘‘It really finds an iconic way to represent the musical freedom that the iPod delivers.’’


In the late 1990s technology analysts speculated that Apple Computer, Inc.’s fate hinged on its new personal computer the iMac. Apple’s share of the worldwide desktop-computer market had plummeted since 1995, the last year the company had been profitable. Ever greater numbers of consumers were buying personal computers (PCs) that ran on Microsoft’s Windows operating system rather than Apple’s version. Although Apple had pioneered user-friendly computers, the company had not introduced a consumer-targeted computer since 1992. Hoping that its stylish new iMac would propel Apple back into this vast segment of the market, Apple released its ‘‘iMac’’ campaign.
The $100 million campaign, created by the ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day, debuted on August 16, 1998. Its advertisements featured brightly hued computers against a plain white background, thereby further emphasizing the iMac’s one-of-a-kind colorful shell, and contained snappy copy that underscored either the iMac’s aesthetics or its user-friendliness. The campaign, which consisted of network and national cable television commercials (as well as spot television marketing in Apple’s top 10 markets), magazine, billboard, and bus ads, and radio spots, was the largest marketing effort in Apple’s history. But despite the high stakes involved for the company, the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign delivered its message in a ‘‘fun and factual’’ way, an Apple spokesperson stated in the August 14, 1998, San Francisco Chronicle. The ads highlighted the iMac’s easy Internet access, its simplicity (especially when compared to rival PCs), and its speed. Central to each ad was the iMac’s unique design. ‘‘Chic, not geek,’’ proclaimed one, while another simply said, ‘‘iCandy.’’
The iMac’s debut was triumphant, and 1998 proved to be Apple’s first profitable year since 1995. Many industry analysts credited the iMac as the primary force behind this turnaround. ‘‘A year and a half ago, Apple had no future; now it does,’’ proclaimed Fortune. Consumer surveys revealed that a substantial percentage of iMac purchasers were first-time Apple buyers, which indicated that the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign had succeeded in its goal of winning over new computer buyers and PC converts.

Founded in 1977, Apple had fallen on hard times by the mid-1990s. The company had made history in 1984 when it introduced the Macintosh, a machine that revolutionized the computer world with its graphical screen displays, pull-down menus, and other user-friendly features. While International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) licensed its operating system and other technologies, thereby launching an armada of inexpensive PC clones, Apple instead honed its image as the purveyor of ‘‘machine[s] for free-thinking, discriminating nonconformists and rebels,’’ according to Macworld. Apple consistently touted the fact that its computers, unlike those of its rivals, were simple to use. The introduction of Microsoft’s Windows operating system in the early 1990s undermined the force of these claims, however, as Windows provided similar graphical features and screen windows. A proliferation of similar products confused customers at the same time that Apple’s imagemaking efforts devolved into chaos. By 1996, 25 separate Apple campaigns were running simultaneously. As the company’s market share plummeted precipitously—from a high of around 14 percent in 1993 to a paltry 3 percent in 1997—software writers threatened to stop creating programs for the Apple operating system, claiming there was no profit to be made. Consumers began to doubt that Apple would survive and were reluctant to spend thousands of dollars on a machine that might quickly become a dinosaur. ‘‘This company was in a death spiral,’’ an Apple executive told Newsweek.
Steve Jobs, one of Apple’s founders, returned to the company as interim CEO in 1997 and quickly strove to right the troubled company. After trimming the product line to two broad categories—home and business—Jobs vowed to focus the ‘‘home’’ line on Apple’s key markets of consumers and school users. At the same time Jobs oversaw the creation of 1997’s ‘‘Think Different’’ advertising campaign, a high-profile effort designed to reassert that Apple, though plagued by bad press and sinking profits, was a vibrant company producing innovative products for innovative people. Jobs’ strategy halted the company’s free fall, and in April 1998 Apple reported its second straight profitable quarter. The company still needed to prove that it could compete for the consumer market with rival PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and Dell. While Apple retained ‘‘Think Different’’ as an overarching branding campaign, it needed advertisements to herald the arrival of its newest machine, the iMac.

Apple wanted to market the iMac predominantly to three groups: loyal Apple users, first-time computer buyers, and PC owners. As the company had not introduced a new consumer product since 1992, it hoped that many Apple users would choose to upgrade to the iMac. The company had long cultivated a rebellious image, with advertisements ranging from the famous ‘‘1984’’ commercial to the stark ‘‘Think Different’’ photos of maverick geniuses who had flouted conventional wisdom to make stunning contributions. As a result Apple buyers tended to be those who perceived themselves to be somewhat outside the mainstream and who valued creativity. Advertisements for the iMac were crafted to reach this group as well. The print ads used arty photos of the iMac that made the computer look less like a machine and more like a museum piece. The taglines in some of the print pieces also followed the Apple advertising formula. For instance, ‘‘I think therefore iMac,’’ punned on Descartes’ famous maxim, and understanding the reference required a degree of intellectual literacy. Moreover, the quirky, insider-type wit was likely to appeal to the alternative audience comprising the bulk of Apple loyalists.
Reaching first-time computer buyers presented an entirely different set of challenges. An industry analyst estimated that 5 million to 10 million consumers were ready to buy their first computer. According to an Apple news release this analyst concluded that ‘‘access to the Internet is a leading reason for consumers to buy a personal computer.’’ The technological world was often overwhelming to the uninitiated, though, with its talk of RAM, gigabytes, and modem speed. The ‘‘iMac’’ campaign sought to allay these consumers’ fears. One print ad suggested that the most complicated aspect of buying an iMac was deciding which color to purchase. ‘‘The thrill of surfing. The agony of choosing,’’ the piece quipped. ‘‘Buying a computer used to be a decision based on processor power, functions, and software packages,’’ said the Austin American-Statesman. ‘‘iMac has changed things because it is now about choosing between strawberry and grape.’’ Other print ads—‘‘Yum’’ and ‘‘iCandy’’—likened the machine to a sweet treat, further demystifying it. The television commercials, such as ‘‘Simplicity Shootout,’’ also emphasized the iMac’s user-friendliness by juxtaposing Apple’s easy setup and Internet access with the hassle of trying to use a Windows-based PC for the first time. Commercials featuring the actor Jeff Goldblum validated the insecurities of the Internet ‘‘newbie.’’ ‘‘It seems a big party is going on these days,’’ Goldblum said to the camera, referring to the Internet. ‘‘[But] I don’t have an e-mail.’’ He then proceeded to explain how easy it was to get on the Internet with the iMac.
The third group Apple strove to target with the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign was consumers using other PCs. Many analysts doubted that Apple could entice an appreciable number of Windows aficionados to purchase the iMac as their next computer, according to Tulsa World. Apple believed it could. To do so, the company hammered home the message that the iMac was faster, simpler, and equally as affordable as comparable PCs. The ‘‘iMac’’ campaign conveyed that ‘‘[w]e have a better product,’’ an Apple executive told Advertising Age. Apple also used the iMac’s style as an important selling point. One particular print ad (that humorously declared, ‘‘Sorry, no beige’’ above a turquoise iMac) embodied an underlying premise of the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign:
‘‘people [would] be able to further express themselves through their computers,’’ as an Apple spokesperson told the Austin American-Statesman.

The magnitude of Apple’s goal of convincing first-time computer buyers and PC owners to consider the iMac was mammoth. According to Investor’s Business Daily, 85 percent of the desktop-computer market consisted of Windows-based PCs. The leading computer manufacturer was Compaq, which in 1994 overtook IBM to become the market leader. Compaq was no stranger to consumer-oriented advertising campaigns. In 1995 Compaq debuted ‘‘Has It Changed Your Life Yet?,’’ which was created by the ad agency Ammirati Puris Lintas. The commercials were intended to show how Compaq PCs ‘‘change[d] . . . lives in small but important ways for the better,’’ an Ammirati spokesperson told Marketing Computers. One spot showed a delighted child receiving a Compaq for Christmas. In 1998 Compaq doubled its ad spending for its Presario computer, which was its primary consumer-oriented machine. In February 1999 Compaq inaugurated a worldwide branding campaign. As of October 1998 Compaq maintained a 13.7 percent share of the worldwide computer market. IBM devoted a massive advertising budget to reaching home-computer users. In the early 1990s IBM came under attack for being an unwieldy behemoth in the increasingly nimble computer industry. In an effort to revamp its image IBM began its ‘‘Solutions for a Small Planet’’ campaign in 1995. Although many of these Ogilvy & Mather spots directly addressed businesses, the overall goal of the campaign was to bolster the IBM brand. In February 1998 IBMspecifically sought to reach consumers when it spent $50million on an Olympics ad campaign. The print ads and television spots celebrated little-known athletes whose personal accomplishments embodied the spirit of the Olympic Games. As Advertising Age explained, IBM planned to ‘‘make viewers feel better about IBM and better about IBM technology.’’ In addition to airing the campaign during Olympics broadcasts on CBS and TNT, print pieces appeared in Sports Illustrated, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. IBM had an 8.6 percent share of the market in October 1998.
Another rival, Hewlett-Packard, teamed up with agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in 1997 to produce ‘‘Expanding Possibilities,’’ a $40 million consumer campaign. Other competitors, such as Microsoft, Intel, and Dell, also engaged in brand-building campaigns during the period.

To reach the diverse audience comprising its three target markets, Apple unleashed the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign with a media blitz. ‘‘It is easily our most far-reaching, coordinated use of the media,’’ a company spokesperson told the San Francisco Chronicle. Television commercials played a central role in communicating the campaign’s message to a vast number of consumers. While many rival computer companies focused heavily on trade publications, Apple aggressively pursued consumers where they lived. ‘‘Determining the media mix was complicated,’’ an Apple executive told Editor & Publisher. ‘‘iMac is targeted toward a variety of different markets, [and buyers] don’t necessarily need to be technologically savvy.’’ After the campaign’s launch on The Wonderful World of Disney, iMac spots aired on popular network shows that garnered a mainstream audience, such as Home Improvement, Spin City, Just Shoot Me, Friends, and 20/20. Apple also used national cable channels, such as Comedy Central, FX, and MSNBC. To ensure that its base of Apple users knew of the iMac and its updated features, the company also bought local air time in its top 10 markets: Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Minneapolis, and Denver.
The television commercials relied on humor to convey the iMac’s qualities. A spot called ‘‘Simplicity Shootout’’ featured ‘‘Adam Taggert, 26, Brown University graduate, Class of 1994’’ competing against a 7-year-old boy and his dog in a duel to set up their respective new computers. Taggert, who had selected a PC, fumbled with cables and manuals for quite a while, while the youngster had his iMac up and running in five minutes. Later television spots portrayed actor Jeff Goldblum (who had provided the voice-over on earlier iMac commercials) talking frankly and calmly about the iMac. Still others concentrated on the visual vividness of the machine. In January 1999, after Apple launched five additional iMac colors (tangerine, lime, strawberry, blueberry, and grape), TBWA\Chiat\Day created a commercial that pictured the five bright iMacs spinning artfully to the Rolling Stones’ song ‘‘She’s a Rainbow.’’ Apple used other media as well. The colorful print ‘‘iMac’’ pieces were published in a number of consumer magazines, including ESPN, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Wired, Vanity Fair, Elle, and Metropolitan Home. Moreover, the company engaged in a major saturation effort in its top 10 markets. Billboard versions of the ads (showing the iMac and containing a single tagline, such as ‘‘Mental Floss’’), bus ads, and radio spots all played an important role. Apple also broadcast ‘‘countdown to iMac’’ radio pieces in these markets during the days prior to the iMac’s introduction. In addition, it sponsored radio promotions in which an iMac was given away every day. The company even went so far as to install 20-foot inflatable iMacs atop some computer stores. ‘‘Apple is acting more like a package[d]-good marketer than a technology company,’’ exclaimed Advertising Age. An analyst for the magazine concurred: ‘‘They’re creating an environment in which an awful lot of potential consumers are paying attention to them.’’ Maintaining such a high profile was essential not only for Apple to sell more iMacs, but also ‘‘to reestablish the company’s credibility,’’ according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The ‘‘iMac’’ campaign was truly a global marketing effort. Half of the $100 million ad budget was used in the United States, but the remaining sum brought the message of the iMac’s simplicity to Europe, Japan, and other international markets. The campaign was released in these regions on August 29, 1998.

Despite a blockbuster launch of the iMac, many commentators predicted that the quirky machine would not convert PC users or lure first-time buyers. They were wrong. In its first weekend the iMac generated $25 million in sales. ‘‘It was the best-selling computer we ever had in a single day,’’ a representative from CompUSA proclaimed to the New York Daily News. Nor was this a flash in the pan. At the close of 1998 Apple announced $309 million in profits, of which ‘‘sales of the iMac accounted for a good portion,’’ said the San Jose Mercury News. The company’s stock prices shot up, as did its market share, which reached 5 percent in October 1998. The following month the iMac was the best-selling desktop computer in the United States. And, as the San Jose Mercury News noted, the iMac ‘‘wooed not only Mac faithfuls but also first-time buyers and veteran users of other systems who were new to Mac.’’ A consumer survey reported in Newsbytes News Network revealed that an estimated 40 percent of iMac buyers were new Apple buyers. Apple remained committed to growth in the consumer sector. ‘‘Apple’s future is in the consumer market,’’ an ebullient Jobs told Fortune. In July 1999 the company debuted the iBook, a portable computer designed for consumer use. This laptop, like the iMac, featured bright colors and a unique design. Even though the campaign’s exposure waned after 2000, the ‘‘iMac’’ campaign did not officially end until Apple released its 2002 ‘‘Switchers’’ campaign, which featured real-life people whose lives were improved after they switched to Apple computers.


In December 1999 Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., had the two best-selling beers in the United States and more than double the market share of any competitor. Despite a decade-long decline in sales, Budweiser, the company’s flagship brew, remained the country’s most popular alcoholic beverage, although, thanks largely to the growing consumer preference for reduced-calorie beer, Bud Light was poised to overtake the ‘‘King of Beers.’’ Anheuser-Busch already had the industry’s biggest and most successful advertising presence, but the Budweiser television campaign called ‘‘Whassup?!’’ resonated with a new, more youthful audience and became not just an industry award winner but also a pop-culture phenomenon.
The idea behind the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ commercials, developed for Anheuser-Busch by DDB Worldwide Chicago, was simple. In the initial spot, called ‘‘Whassup True,’’ four male friends, speaking over the phone, greeted one another with the slang phrase ‘‘Whassup?!’’ The answer—
‘‘Watching the game. Having a Bud’’—elicited the response ‘‘True, true,’’ before the conversation escalated into a chorus of ‘‘Whassups?!’’ delivered with mouths open, tongues protruding, and an air of intense glee. ‘‘It didn’t feel like advertising,’’ said DDB’s Don Pogany. ‘‘It seemed different than anything else. And it seemed to be totally what Bud is about: camaraderie and friendship and what guys do.’’ A second spot aired during the 2000 Super Bowl, and several more featuring the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ guys aired later in the winter. Each of the spots ended with the Budweiser logo against a black background and the tagline ‘‘True.’’
Within a few months of the campaign’s introduction, unauthorized Internet parodies began to appear that featured people in the news, cartoon superheroes, and many others greeting one another with innumerable variations on ‘‘Whassup?!’’ Disc jockeys and late-night talkshow hosts began saying ‘‘Whassup?!’’ and soon it became a common greeting and a pop-culture phrase around the world, even in countries where Budweiser was not sold. The initial campaign won nearly every major industry award, and later installments continued to win awards. ‘‘Whassup?!’’ ran through 2001 and was then developed into a more expansive campaign called ‘‘True,’’ in which the tagline from the original commercials was interpreted in new ways meant to show beer drinkers that Budweiser understood them and their lives.

In 1992 August A. Busch IV, whose father, August A. Busch III, was the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, took charge of marketing for the Budweiser family of brands. At the time imports and microbrews posed threats to the Anheuser-Busch juggernaut, and as Michael McCarthy of USA Today put it, ‘‘Bud was becoming your dad’s beer.’’ Though Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser had a long history of marketing prowess, as evidenced by the iconic status of their trademark Clydesdale horses and by enduring slogans like the ‘‘King of Beers’’ and ‘‘This Bud’s for You,’’ Busch set out to update the Bud image for a new generation of beer drinkers.
Busch and Anheuser-Busch executive Bob Lachky oversaw a period of breakthroughs in creative work on behalf of the Budweiser brands. Between 1993 and 1995 campaigns such as ‘‘Ladies Night,’’ ‘‘Yes I Am!’’ and ‘‘I Love You Man,’’ all on behalf of Bud Light, helped, in Lachky’s words, ‘‘make the 25-year-old believe that Budweiser spoke their language.’’ Anheuser-Busch began using a combination of different advertising agencies while relying primarily on DDB and on Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the San Francisco agency responsible for the successful ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ campaign. According to Lachky, the use of multiple agencies encouraged ‘‘a healthy competition and better creative work.’’
By 1999 Anheuser-Busch had an estimated market share of 47.5 percent, up from 43 percent at the beginning of the decade. Budweiser, however, continued to lose ground yearly. Although this was seen as a reflection of consumer preference rather than a deficiency in the product or in marketing, Anheuser-Busch continued to allocate large amounts of advertising money and energy to Budweiser. This was intended to arrest the slide in Budweiser’s market share, but also, as Hillary Chura noted in Advertising Age, ‘‘Advertising dedicated to Budweiser often boosts sales of other brands like Bud Light, Bud Ice, and the rest of the brand family.’’

Anheuser-Busch expected the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ ads to resonate across demographic lines within the 21- to 27-yearold segment of the population, an essential part of Budweiser’s larger target market of all legal-age drinkers. Not only did this segment of young adults account for a disproportionate percentage of beer sales relative to other adults, its brand loyalties had presumably not yet been formed. The spots featured a mostly African-American cast, and the campaign’s central verbal exchange was based on slang terms used in minority communities, although the universal principles of friendship that were displayed had the power, Anheuser-Busch believed, to attract young viewers across racial, ethnic, and gender divides. Barbara Lippert argued in Adweek that the ads were about ‘‘feeling so connected to your best buds you can watch TV together through the phone. And that while you are supposedly ‘chillin,’ you are all maniacally dialing each other.’’
Anheuser-Busch, however, wanted to avoid alienating older customers who did not understand the significance of the characters’ boisterous attitudes and protruding tongues. When a group of wholesalers expressed their disapproval of the emerging campaign, Lachky and Busch decided not to continue to air the original version but to showcase ‘‘Whassup?!’’ spots that relied on individual narratives and thereby helped viewers make sense of the characters. They also decided to trim the 60-second spots to 30 seconds in order to reduce the amount of time occupied by the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ ritual itself. Soon Internet parodies began, and the campaign attracted mainstream media attention. Once ‘‘Whassup?!’’ became part of the pop-culture vocabulary, the campaign had an air of widespread public validation that overcame all demographic divisions. As Advertising Age put it, ‘‘Any advertising that bridges generation gaps so that even our mothers are leaving ‘Whassup?!’ messages on our answering machines must be a good one.’’

Although Miller Brewing Company remained Anheuser-Busch’s nearest rival, Miller’s market share, which had been decreasing for years, dropped from 21.7 to 19.6 percent between 1999 and 2001. Advertising campaigns for the company’s two top brews, Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft, had been blamed for failing to move the products. Miller Lite’s ‘‘Dick’’ campaign, which ran in 1997 and 1998 and consisted of a series of absurdist vignettes dreamed up by a fictional advertising copywriter named Dick, attracted attention for its unpredictability and humor, but it did little to promote the beer itself. Miller Genuine Draft’s ‘‘Never Miss a Genuine Opportunity’’ campaign, which relied on openly sexual themes and narratives, was derided by many for being too graphic and, like the ‘‘Dick’’ campaign, for failing to establish any connection between the story line and the product. After abandoning these campaigns, Miller struggled to find new, compelling themes in its advertising.
The Adolph Coors Company, a distant third in the American beer wars, had increased its market share to 11.1 percent by 2001, and its leading product, Coors Light, had surpassed Miller Lite to become the country’s third most popular beer. ‘‘Beer Man,’’ a Coors Light advertising campaign that focused on ballpark vendors, was seen by many wholesalers as a refreshing, real-life contrast to campaigns like the Budweiser lizards and Miller Lite’s ‘‘Dick.’’ An effort to turn back slumping sales of the company’s Original Coors beer by touting its alcohol content and rich taste met with mixed results in the declining market for full-calorie domestic beers.

After ‘‘Whassup?!’’ had won both the Grand Clio and the Cannes Grand Prix in 2000, there were complaints within the advertising industry. Some felt that it was inappropriate to give the industry’s highest honors to a campaign that had not originally come from an advertising agency at all. The idea, of course, was Charles Stone III’s, and the initial spot was similar to his independent film True. But Stone was not himself the sole author of the idea. ‘‘Whassup?!’’ was a greeting that he and his friends had been using with one another since 1984.

‘‘Whassup?!’’ had its genesis outside the advertising world in a short film called True, created by music-video director Charles Stone III as a means of trying to break into feature films. A DDB creative director discovered True and immediately recommended it to his supervisor as suitable for a Budweiser advertisement. The film, which became ‘‘Whassup True’’ after minor adjustments in content, featured Stone and three of his friends. Stone himself was tapped to direct and to act in the series of commercials DDB began scripting, and though roughly 80 other actors were auditioned for the parts of Stone’s friends, with one exception DDB hired the real-life friends to play themselves. Stone worried that the slang response ‘‘True’’ might need to be scrapped in favor of a more mainstream line like ‘‘Right on,’’ but Anheuser-Busch’s Lachky recognized the trend setting potential of the original.
‘‘Whassup True’’ originally aired with little fanfare on sports programming in December 1999. The 60-second commercial was a hit with the 21- to 27-yearold demographic, but for the 2000 Super Bowl Anheuser-Busch chose the shorter and less risky ‘‘Girlfriend,’’ in which one of the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ friends answered the phone in characteristic fashion while trying not to let on that the ‘‘game’’ he was watching with his girlfriend was actually a figure-skating competition. Other spots in the original campaign included one in which a pizza deliverer was mistaken for a friend and subjected, over an apartment-building intercom, to the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ routine. The spots eventually ran during sports programming, as well as prime-time and late-night shows.
After Internet parodies and media attention became widespread, ‘‘Whassup?!’’ was at risk of becoming overexposed, and Anheuser-Busch and DDB worked to keep the campaign fresh by running their own spoofs. In ‘‘Come Home’’ an alien, returning to his home planet after infiltrating Earth in the guise of a dog, was asked by his ruler what he had learned from his time among humans. After a short pause the alien declared, mouth wide and tongue lolling, ‘‘Whassup?!’’ In addition, DDB created a unique hybrid commercial called ‘‘Language Tape,’’ in which a professor-like character directed viewers to, where they could learn how to say ‘‘Whassup?!’’ in 36 different languages. Website traffic increased to 1.265 million visitors per month, compared to the previous year’s average of 400,000. Anheuser-Busch and DDB went on to run commercials featuring New Jersey men bearing a strong resemblance to characters on the hit television show The Sopranos, who said, ‘‘Howyoudoin,’’ instead of ‘‘Whassup?!’’ After this final twist on the original idea, Budweiser’s advertising agencies, along with its in-house marketing team, began producing various television spots that more broadly interpreted the tagline ‘‘True.’’ These spots included story lines offering honest and affectionate reflections on gender differences and male behavior, commercials with a focus on product quality, and several series of vignettes, such as the well-known ‘‘Leon’’ commercials, which revolved around the comical exploits of an extremely self-centered professional football player.

DDB Worldwide Chicago claimed to have pioneered the concept of ‘‘talk value,’’ that elusive quality that makes advertising campaigns and phrases cultural touchstones, but the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ campaign far exceeded the agency’s and Anheuser-Busch’s expectations. The phrase appeared as a headline on the cover of Forbes, and the commercials were parodied on Saturday Night Live in addition to being mentioned countless times in the media while being spread around the world via more than 80 homemade Internet parodies. At the 2000 Grammy Awards performers Christina Aguilera and LeVar Burton imitated the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ commercials on the red carpet, and during that year’s NBA season the Sacramento Kings gave a collective cry of ‘‘Whassup?!’’ after each team huddle.

‘‘Whassup?!’’ was one of the most acclaimed and popular campaigns in advertising history. It won nearly every major award in the industry, including the prestigious Grand Clio and the Grand Prix at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. During the second year of the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ campaign, Busch was named Advertiser of the Year at the Cannes festival. The campaign’s signature phrase earned comparisons to classic advertising phrases like Wendy’s ‘‘Where’s the Beef ?’’ and Nike’s ‘‘Just Do It.’’ Busch said of the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ campaign, ‘‘In our lifetimes, we’ll never see so much value created from a single idea. It makes Budweiser a brand for every culture, every demographic and every community. It makes Budweiser a younger, hipper, more contemporary brand.’’
The decline in Budweiser sales could not be stopped, however. Meanwhile, sales of Bud Light continued to grow at double-digit rates, and in 2001 it surpassed Budweiser to become the best-selling beer in the United States. Anheuser-Busch continued to dominate the domestic beer market. In 2000 the company increased shipments and sales by 2.8 percent, and in 2001 it likewise outperformed the industry, approaching a market share of nearly 50 percent. Budweiser’s umbrella ‘‘True’’ campaign, so memorably launched by the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ commercials, continued.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., had the two best-selling beers in the United States in 2000 as well as more than double the market share of any competitor. The company’s flagship brew, Budweiser, remained the country’s most popular alcoholic beverage despite a decadelong decline in sales. Bud Light had meanwhile been making double-digit percentage gains in sales and was poised to overtake the ‘‘King of Beers,’’ thanks to the growing consumer preference for reduced-calorie beer. Anheuser-Busch maintained its market dominance in part by consistently setting the standard for beer advertising.
After assuming responsibility for advertising for the Bud family of brands in 1994, August A. Busch IV (son of August A. Busch III, the company’s CEO) made it a priority to update Bud’s image for a new generation of beer drinkers. Anheuser-Busch advertising, under Busch and marketing executive Bob Lachky, increasingly relied on irreverent, ironic humor to appeal to younger segments of its legal-drinking-age audience. Although radio had become an afterthought for many advertisers by the late 1990s, Anheuser-Busch continued to explore the medium’s possibilities. In keeping with the tone of a mid-1990s radio campaign and Bud Light’s consistently popular television campaigns, Anheuser-Busch unveiled a tongue-in-cheek series of radio spots called ‘‘Real American Heroes,’’ which parodied beer advertisements of previous decades. Anheuser-Busch spent a reported $4 million on the radio campaign in 2002.
The ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ campaign made a bigger splash than many believed possible for a radio effort. Renamed ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ after September 11, 2001, the campaign ran successfully for years, earning dozens of awards from the advertising industry while building a dedicated base of fans. ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ made the rare leap from radio to television in 2003. Though the television commercials were likewise well regarded, the campaign returned exclusively to radio the following year.

In the 1970s and 1980s top American brewers marketed their beers by appealing to consumers’ affection for the blue-collar American workingman. Classic slogans such as ‘‘Miller Time’’ and ‘‘This Bud’s for You’’ suggested that hardworking men deserved a quality beer at the end of the day and that, moreover, the ‘‘regular guy’’ was a hero deserving of recognition. Anthemic music and patriotic undercurrents were used to enhance the sincere, heroic tone of these commercials, and the formula proved successful until the early 1990s.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, Anheuser-Busch had an aging base of consumers, and younger drinkers were perceived as unresponsive to commercials that saluted such straightforward values as patriotism and hard work. Anheuser-Busch sought to update its products for a new generation. The sincere statement ‘‘This Bud’s for You’’ gave way, in the mid-1990s, to less traditional ideas, such as the Budweiser frogs and lizards, as well as Bud Light creative, including ‘‘Ladies Night,’’ ‘‘Yes I Am!’’ and ‘‘I Love You, Man.’’ These campaigns helped ‘‘make the 25-year-old believe that Budweiser spoke their language,’’ according to Anheuser-Busch’s Lachky.
Also in the mid-1990s Anheuser-Busch supported the Bud Light brand with a popular series of over-thetop radio commercials narrated by Charlton Heston. The Heston spots, according to Lachky, ‘‘carved out an area attached to the brand that was very fun, very young, very cut through.’’ As the Heston campaign wound down, Anheuser-Busch commissioned Bud Light lead agency DDB Worldwide Chicago to come up with a replacement radio campaign.

The focus of Anheuser-Busch’s marketing efforts during this time was 21- to 27-year-old drinkers, a segment of the population that consumed more beer per capita than other age groups and had not yet formed strict brand allegiances. Like preceding Anheuser-Busch campaigns of the 1990s, ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ used ironic humor to reach its core audience. Beyond simply appealing to this audience’s tastes, however, the radio spots capitalized on the younger market’s wariness of traditional advertising techniques by mocking the sincere ‘‘work-reward’’ campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s. Using dramatic rock music and authoritative voice-overs that explicitly recalled those earlier campaigns, ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ sarcastically extolled the virtues of ‘‘heroes’’ like Mr. Bowling Shoe Giver Outer, Mr. Garden Gnome Maker, and Mr. Jelly Donut Filler.
The campaign eventually made its way onto television (after having been renamed ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’), but many of the spots were particularly suited to a radio audience because they created, as Lachky told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a ‘‘theater of the mind’’ that activated the consumer’s imagination. Though the spots mocked supposed everyday heroes, they were similar to the classic work-reward campaigns in that they were meant to reflect listeners’ ordinary observations and personal experience. ‘‘Everybody has got their quirks,’’ Lachky said, ‘‘and everybody has probably been a ‘Real Man of Genius.’’’ Supplementing Bud Light’s brand strategy via radio campaigns became increasingly sensible, in Anheuser-Busch’s view, because of the rise of cable television and the resulting fragmentation of the network viewing audience. Additionally Anheuser-Busch was able to place many of its radio spots locally as well as nationally. This benefited wholesalers, who needed to be able to respond to varying local conditions. Further, television viewing traditionally dropped off significantly during the summer months, the time of year when consumers drank the most beer. Radio allowed Anheuser-Busch to reach otherwise unreachable segments of its audience, including those who were traveling or engaging in leisure activities away from their televisions.

Though Miller Brewing Company remained Anheuser-Busch’s nearest rival, its market share had been decreasing for years, and its leading product, Miller Lite, was likewise losing market share when Bud Light’s ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ campaign broke. Miller’s advertising campaigns had been partially blamed for these declines. Miller Lite’s ‘‘Dick’’ campaign, which ran on television in 1997 and 1998 and consisted of a series of absurdist vignettes supposedly dreamed up by a fictional advertising copywriter named Dick, attracted attention for its unpredictability and humor but did little to promote the beer itself. After abandoning ‘‘Dick,’’ Miller Lite struggled to find new, compelling themes in its advertisements. In 2002, after being purchased by South Africa Breweries, Miller began using taste-test commercials claiming that Miller Lite outperformed Bud Light, and in 2004 Miller Lite began to make up ground against Bud Light and Coors Light by positioning itself, amid the low-carbohydrate diet craze, as a lower-carb alternative to its rivals.
The Adolph Coors Company, a distant third in the American beer wars, increased its market share in the late 1990s, and its leading product, Coors Light, had by 2001 surpassed Miller Lite to become the country’s third most popular beer (and second most popular light beer). Coors Light’s multiyear ‘‘Beer Man’’ television campaign, focusing on ballpark vendors, was seen by many wholesalers as a refreshing real-life contrast to campaigns like the Budweiser lizards and Miller Lite’s ‘‘Dick.’’

Extending the tone of the Heston radio campaign and directly parodying Anheuser-Busch’s own ‘‘This Bud’s for You’’ concept, DDB’s creative team singled out ‘‘regular guys’’ in overlooked jobs or with comical foibles, ‘‘people who just need to be called out to take a bow for whatever reason,’’ as agency creative director John Immesoete said, and began scripting music-based mock tributes to them. For the commercials’ sound track, DDB commissioned Chicago-based Scandal Music to compose a comically overblown 1980s song similar to the Survivor hit ‘‘Eye of the Tiger,’’ and David Bickler, who had himself been Survivor’s lead singer, was hired to do a bombastic parody of his own vocal work. After a lengthy search DDB hired announcer Pete Stacker, whose experience included traditional beer advertising, to do voice-over for the spots. The lyrics, sung in dramatic fashion by Bickler, worked in counterpoint to Stacker’s deadpan baritone voice-over, and a portrait of each ‘‘hero’’ emerged against the background of soaring music. Anheuser-Busch was uncertain, in the beginning, about the extreme sarcasm of the commercials. ‘‘But we ran them past the consumer,’’ Lachky told Adweek, ‘‘and they were a home run.’’
The initial series of 12 ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ spots attracted fans almost immediately. Radio personality Howard Stern lauded them on the air, and websites devoted to the jingles’ lyrics began appearing. Tape recordings of the spots showed up for sale at the online auction site eBay, and ‘‘Real American Heroes,’’ along with Budweiser’s famous ‘‘Whassup?!’’ television commercials (also created by DDB Worldwide Chicago), began to dominate the awards circuit. The radio commercials were likewise popular with Anheuser-Busch executives and distributors, and DDB was told to ‘‘keep ‘em coming,’’ according to Immesoete. Another 17 spots followed the original 12. With the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, the premise of mocking American heroes suddenly seemed questionable, and the spots were pulled from circulation. The campaign reemerged in early 2002 as ‘‘Real Men of Genius.’’ The continuing success of ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ led Anheuser-Busch to commission the campaign’s adaptation for a 2003–04 television run. The move was seen as risky, even though similar Anheuser-Busch spots had already aired on British TV. The spots’ success in the United States had depended, until then, on allowing the consumer to visualize the characters being parodied via song and voice-over. As DDB’s Bob Winter told Adweek, ‘‘It was hard to think of how to do it visually on TV.’’ The initial spots adapted included ‘‘Mr. Way Too Much Cologne Wearer,’’ ‘‘Mr. Foot Long Hot Dog Inventor,’’ and ‘‘Mr. Really Bad Toupee Wearer’’ and appeared on programs such as Saturday Night Live and Monday Night Football. A ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ commercial likewise made it onto Anheuser-Busch’s famously competitive Super Bowl roster, and the television campaign was, like its radio counterpart, a favorite on the awards circuit. Anheuser-Busch decided early on, however, to limit the number of TV adaptations. ‘‘Sometimes the best ideas are [best] left alone in the medium where they flourish,’’ Lachky told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The spots continued on radio. In 2004 the number of spots produced since the campaign’s inception surpassed 100, and in Anheuser-Busch’s view the potential to extend the idea was still endless.

DDB Worldwide Chicago originally envisioned using a Bette Midler song like ‘‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’’ for the sound track to the ‘‘Real American Heroes’’ commercials. But the rights to Midler’s songs proved prohibitively expensive, and the Midler music did not work well in test runs. DDB’s creative team began, instead, to lean toward a 1980s anthem-rock sound along the lines of Survivor’s ‘‘Eye of the Tiger.’’ The agency hired Chicago’s Scandal Music to do an original parody of that sound, and it happened that Scandal’s owner, Sandy Torano, was a friend of Survivor’s lead singer, David Bickler. Far from being offended at the suggestion that he mock someone like himself, Bickler embraced the role. Indeed Bickler had long enjoyed a career not just as a rock star but as an ad pitchman, with singing credits that included a Kentucky Fried Chicken ‘‘Finger Lickin’ Good’’ spot, a Frosted Flakes commercial, and work for Sprite’s ‘‘Uncola’’ campaign. In TV versions of the ‘‘Real Men of Genius’’ spots, Bickler was shown wearing an unflattering wig and pumping his fists triumphantly while singing. ‘‘That’s part of my role, to provide that exclamation point,’’ he told USA Today. ‘‘I get into the spirit. I want it to be as good as it could be.’’

In addition to exceeding 100 spots, the ‘‘Real American Heroes/Real Men of Genius’’ campaign earned more than 100 advertising awards. The radio campaign won the top Radio-Mercury Award two years in a row, the 2003 Grand Clio, and numerous other Clio, ADDY, Kinsale, One Show, and ANDY awards. The television campaign won a Gold Lion at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France. Numerous websites devoted to lyrics and MP3 recordings of the commercials could be found on the Internet throughout the campaign’s run. In 2003 and 2004 Anheuser-Busch released two volumes of official compact disc recordings of selected spots along with bonus tracks of unreleased spots. The campaign was credited with raising the profile of radio advertising as a whole.
In 2001 Bud Light, overtaking Budweiser in sales for the first time, became the number one beer in America. Continuing to dominate the domestic beer market, Anheuser-Busch had approached a market share of 50 percent by 2001 and held steady at that unprecedented level in following years. ‘‘We knew we had a winner with the ‘Real Men of Genius’ campaign early on,’’ Lachky told PR Newswire, ‘‘but the popularity and longevity of the series has exceeded our expectations and provided a fantastic promotional opportunity for Bud Light.’’


Anheuser-Busch introduced two new beers to its Budweiser family in 1995. Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light were both ‘‘ice brewed’’ by pumping the beer through ice chambers during the brewing process. Both varieties of Bud Ice were packaged in distinctive long-necked bottles shaped to look and feel like a handful of ice cubes. To inaugurate its newest product, as well as to bolster Bud Ice in the competitive ice beer market, Anheuser-Busch selected the San Francisco-based ad agency Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners to develop an advertising campaign that would reflect the values of the fledgling brand and that would appeal to viewers through creative, memorable, and entertaining commercials. The resulting ‘‘Oh, and Beware of the Penguins’’ campaign, which featured slightly sinister penguins, was launched during the Super Bowl on January 28, 1996. Since that first spot garnered almost immediate positive responses from both consumers and critics, Anheuser-Busch continued with the campaign. Over the next two years, the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was expanded to include other television commercials, as well as ads on billboards and trucks. Additionally, marketing teams dressed as penguins turned up in bars handing out samples of the beverage.
The television ‘‘Penguins’’ spots all featured tuxedoclad penguins that went to edgy extremes to steal people’s Bud Ice. The spots, which parodied movie genres, included such commercials as ‘‘Penguin Express,’’ in which a film-noir-type detective was frightened in his train car by a Bud Ice-seeking penguin who sang the refrain from the classic Frank Sinatra song ‘‘Strangers in the Night’’ in a nasal-toned ‘‘Dooby Dooby Doo.’’ In another commercial, this time spoofing horror movies, a suburban couple was terrified by a penguin’s crank calls from their upstairs bedroom. The bird, of course, wanted their ice beer. In 1997 Anheuser-Busch released an ad that portrayed the thieving penguin making off with the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup trophy. ‘‘Jungle’’ told the tale of jungle explorers who made the mistake of resting and drinking a Bud Ice. Spear-pointing natives captured the party, lashed them to stakes, and used the Bud Ice to summon their penguin god, which they did by chanting ‘‘Dooby Dooby Doo’’ and placing the beer on a shrine before a roaring fire. At the close of each ad, viewers were advised to ‘‘Drink Bud Ice . . . But Beware of the Penguins.’’
Anheuser-Busch chose the quirky and slightlythreatening penguin as its mascot for Bud Ice to target the company’s professed target market—the ‘‘contemporary adult’’ aged 21 to 34 years old. Moreover, using a bird instead of a person to promote its beer allowed Budweiser to reach across race and gender lines to appeal to a wide audience of potential Bud Ice drinkers. The campaign and its high-visibility tie-ins, such as Bud Ice’s partnership as the ‘‘official beer’’ of the National Hockey League, helped propel Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light to become the highest-selling ice brand in the United States.

Anheuser-Busch, the world’s largest brewery with a history dating back to the 1860s, originally launched an ice draft brand in 1994. The beer, which was added to Anheuser-Busch’s vast repertoire of beers—including Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, and the nonalcoholic O’Doul’s—was first marketed under the more cumbersome name Ice Draft from Budweiser. This brand met with stiff competition from other brewers and did not fare as well as expected, partially because Budweiser’s contribution to the ice genre contained 5 percent alcohol instead of the 5.5 percent alcohol of other ice draft brands. In addition, shortly after Ice Draft from Budweiser was released, Anheuser-Busch’s competitors hurried their own versions to the shelves. Miller Brewing Company, Budweiser’s chief competitor, introduced six ice beers. Although Ice Draft from Budweiser was the best-selling ice beer in 1994, its market share was eclipsed by Miller’s total line of ice drafts. Anheuser-Busch expected to sell 3.5 million barrels but actually realized sales of only 2.5 million barrels in the highly competitive market.
Rather than abandon the concept, however, Anheuser-Busch chose to repackage and relaunch the brew as Bud Ice in 1995. Bud Ice Light was released the same year. The new formulation had the higher alcohol content of its rivals and was bottled to look as if the glass container were sculpted out of ice. But even more important to the brand’s success was the estimated $35 million Anheuser-Busch dedicated to promoting Bud Ice.

Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light were targeted at what Anheuser-Busch termed the ‘‘contemporary adult,’’ who ranged in age from 21 to 34 years old. More specifically, though, the brand sought to appeal to a group ‘‘a little younger than the mainstream—to people from 21 to 27,’’ according to Advertising Age. These young adults represented the pinnacle of the market for breweries. Not only were 20-somethings bigger beer consumers, they were also more liable to form their life-long brand preferences during this decade of their lives. A spokesman for one of Budweiser’s competitors, Miller Brewing Company, told Beverage World that ‘‘the most evolving dynamic is the 21- to 30-year group . . . it would take a lot of pounding away to try to accomplish a [brand] switch [after that age].’’
Budweiser knew from its experience with the wildly successful Budweiser frogs and wise-cracking lizards that humor worked well to attract this younger target audience. Bob Lachky, vice president of Budweiser brands, explained to Advertising Age that ‘‘the only way to appeal to [this demographic group] was with something off-beat and a little edgy.’’ The cute but malicious singing penguins fit this bill neatly and indeed were like nothing else on television.
Budweiser was also aware that by focusing the campaign on penguin mascots it could obtain a competitive boost without offending or excluding any group, which was a risk run by ads featuring real people. Although young men by far consumed more beer than any other group, Anheuser-Busch had only recently abandoned its more sexist ads that featured scantily-clad women as barroom objects of desire for beer-guzzling men. After an outcry from women (who were drinking more beer with each passing year of the 1980s and 1990s), as well as from trade publications such as Advertising Age (which in 1993 condemned most beer ads for using women to ‘‘represent sexual imagery and nothing else’’), Anheuser-Busch changed its strategies. ‘‘Treating women as objects is not in tune with today’s markets,’’ Lachky told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Beer campaigns that relied on animal mascots rather than party scenes did not run the risk of excluding women from their appeal.
The penguins did provide Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light with an abundance of personality. Bud Ice brand manager, Michael La Broad, emphasized to USA Today that the ‘‘beauty of the [Penguins] campaign is that it’s memorable.’’ Analysts concurred that the ‘‘critter ads’’ had sufficient wit and entertainment value to reach both 20-something Generation Xers and aging baby boomers, an impressive sweep for a beer campaign. Moreover, by cleverly parodying standard film tropes, each commercial allowed the brand to capitalize on the popularity, image, and hip campiness of the various genres the campaign spoofed.

Bud Ice and Bud Ice Light faced stiff competition from every major brewer (as well as many minor brewers) in the United States. When Anheuser-Busch launched its Ice Draft from Budweiser, it quickly encountered nearly 40 competitors. Foremost among these was Miller Brewing Company, which released six ice beers in 1994 and 1995. Ice Draft from Budweiser was originally released to compete with cold-filtered Miller Genuine Draft. As Bud Ice, it clashed with Miller’s Icehouse, which was advertised in corporate identity spots produced by BBDO Worldwide, Toronto. Miller also sought to win over the coveted 20-something target market. One of the early Icehouse spots showed two bodysurfers in a mosh pit trying unsuccessfully to swim over the crowd to get to the bar. In response, a waitress—with a tray of perfectly balanced Ice House beer—was passed over the audience to reach them. The Milwaukee-based company spent more than $26 million promoting its Lite Ice beer in 1994 alone.
Beyond its specific ice draft competitors, Bud Ice initially had to struggle to keep the entire ice draft category afloat. This new beer category saw its sales fluctuate widely, and sometimes its very existence seemed tenuous. But by 1996 the market had begun to steady, and ice beers came to account for 5 percent of the 190 million barrel U.S. beer market. But the market faced encroachment from a new source. Trendy microbreweries and smaller national breweries like Samuel Adams vied for Bud Ice’s young and brandconscious target market. Moreover, other major breweries—
Miller and Coors Brewing Company, among others—always remained poised to capture any unguarded share of Budweiser’s leading position in the market.

In 1997 Bud Ice’s use of the penguin resulted in a lawsuit filed by a Miami clothing maker, Supreme International, which alleged that Anheuser-Busch stole that company’s signature bird trademark. ‘‘Now I know what it’s like to be kicked in the stomach by a Clydesdale,’’ said Supreme’s chairman, George Feldenkreis, referring to the mammoth horses that had served for decades as Budweiser’s signature image.

Anheuser-Busch first confined its television advertising efforts for Bud Ice to sports-oriented programming. A USA Today poll revealed that as of July 15, 1996, Bud Ice’s ‘‘Penguin’’ ads were resoundingly popular, yet had been seen by only 30 percent of the viewers quizzed for the survey. The reason for this discrepancy was that Anheuser-Busch ran the commercials only during televised sporting events that ‘‘reached a young, affluent audience.’’ ‘‘Penguins’’ spots did appear regularly on local and cable sports programming, including ESPN, the preeminent sports broadcasting station in the country. As the campaign caught on, however, Budweiser attempted to reach a wider audience. ‘‘Penguins’’ commercials ran on programs such as Saturday Night Live, the Late Show with David Letterman, and Mad TV, as well as on the VH-1 music video network.
As the television campaign gained momentum,
Anheuser-Busch devoted more time and money to socalled on-premise activity, referring to promotions carried out at locations (most notably bars) at which alcohol is sold and consumed ‘‘on the premise.’’ In late 1996 marketing teams dressed in tuxedos turned up in bars giving out Bud Ice-icles, which were plastic icicles that customers could use to add a bright color and a fruity taste to their bottled Bud Ice. Flavors included ‘‘Brain Freeze,’’ ‘‘Ice-otope,’’ and ‘‘Kiss My Face.’’ Anheuser-Busch also sought to draw in more of its key market with promotional tie-ins with the National Hockey League (NHL) and other regional hockey associations, such as the East Coast Hockey League and the American Hockey League. Jim Schumacker, marketing chief for Bud Light and Bud Ice, revealed to Brandweek that Bud Ice’s marketing strategy was two-pronged. ‘‘We’ve got two thrusts,’’ he said. ‘‘Equity in the penguin has been very strong in the contemporary-adult market, as has equity in the National Hockey League.’’ Since the NHL itself targeted the same contemporary young adult male demographic, the link was natural. In one television commercial that illustrated the dual strategies of the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign, a Bud Ice penguin stole the Stanley Cup, the National Hockey League’s championship trophy. In addition to these national efforts, Anheuser-Busch also strove to bring the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign into key regional markets. For instance, Florida—home of two NHL teams—proved to be essential to Bud Ice because of the success Miller’s Icehouse had achieved in that market. The ubiquitous penguin made personal appearances throughout the state (dressed for the sunny climate in sandals and sunglasses) and was christened ‘‘Florida’s Snowbird,’’ a pun on the state’s nickname for transplants from northern states. According to Brandweek, Bud Ice ‘‘created the most tightly-woven plan for the brand, interlacing local market activity with a raft of hockey association, and, of course, that larcenous penguin.’’ This combination of targeted television advertising and concentrated local and regional efforts proved quite successful as Bud Ice strengthened its grip on the top slot in the ice beer market.
The company also devoted a website to the birds, providing information about how the commercials were made, tie-ins to other Budweiser websites, and biographical data on the penguins. The graphics and prose style of the site were clearly targeted to the young adult audience.

Although industry analyst Jerry Steinman acknowledged to USA Today that ‘‘it’s hard to link increased sales of Bud Ice to one specific factor,’’ the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was remarkably well received by television viewers. This enthusiasm was borne out by USA Today ’s Ad Track survey, which monitored the popularity and effectiveness of national advertising campaigns. The penguin spots proved to be among the 10 most popular ads measured, winning the approval of nearly a third of the polled consumers. In 1996 Bud Ice’s sales rose 21 percent, compared to the 1.8 percent increase of ice draft sales in general.
The campaign did receive stiff criticism from a variety of groups who accused Anheuser-Busch of using a cute mascot to lure children to its brand (and thereby create a lifelong market for it). A former ad executive told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ‘‘When I worked on the McDonald’s account [at another ad agency], the theory was to target kids 4- to 7-years-old. We thought if we could capture them at that age, we could keep them for life.’’ Critics believed Anheuser-Busch’s ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign was employing a similar strategy. Company officials, however, disputed the claim that the ads targeted kids, and Anheuser-Busch refused to pull the ‘‘Penguins’’ campaign. A spokeswoman for the company cited Anheuser-Busch’s $160 million educational campaign against underage drinking as evidence of the brewer’s opposition to youth drinking and its firm commitment to deterring it.


In June 1997 Anheuser-Busch Companies introduced a multimedia national advertising campaign to bolster its Budweiser brand beer. Although Anheuser-Busch dominated the American beer market with a 45.3 percent market share and a diverse product line that included the beers Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch, Michelob, and numerous other brands, Budweiser’s sales had begun to slip in the late 1980s. The company turned to its advertising agencies to seek a solution to Budweiser’s problems through a revamped marketing image. After launching, in 1995, the highly successful ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign, which attempted to capture the 21- to 29-year-old segment of the American population, Anheuser-Busch continued to pour advertising dollars into Budweiser. A substantial portion of the estimated $150 million spent annually on Budweiser between 1997 and 2001 went to a campaign called ‘‘Louie the Lizard,’’ developed by the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to target younger beer drinkers.
The campaign, which had TV, radio, print, outdoor, online, and promotional components, focused on an embittered animatronic lizard named Louie who railed against the Budweiser frogs in a Brooklyn accent. Louie was galled that Budweiser had chosen the frogs as brand representatives instead of him; the frogs were each capable of uttering only a single syllable, whereas Louie was articulate and intelligent, if somewhat unstable. Over the course of the campaign Louie became increasingly jealous of the frogs, hiring a ferret to kill them during one memorable series of commercials. In 2000 he focused his resentment on a wildly popular contemporaneous Bud advertising campaign. Soon thereafter, the swampcreatures storyline faded from prominence, to be only briefly resurrected in 2001, 2004, and 2005. The campaign was one of the most popular in recent advertising history, and it was credited with sustaining the freshness of Budweiser’s image among its target audience of young beer drinkers. It won numerous ad-industry awards, including a 1998 Silver Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and an assortment of Clio Awards in 2000. Nevertheless, Budweiser sales continued to decline during the life of the campaign. Although some observers pointed to this fact as evidence of the fruitlessness of Bud advertising, the reality of changing American beer preferences was inarguably the leading cause of Budweiser’s steady sales erosion.

In the fiercely competitive American beer market, Anheuser-Busch had often used high-profile advertising campaigns to promote its flagship beer brand, Budweiser. Even with a history of brewing in the United States that dated back to 1852 and a solid reputation as the world’s largest beer maker, Anheuser-Busch still felt the squeeze of flattening beer sales that plagued the entire beer sector in the 1990s. In 1995 American beer sales continued a decade-long trend of descent and dropped an additional 1.5 percent. Anheuser-Busch soon realized that, although Budweiser remained the beer of choice for older Americans, the brand’s popularity with the highly desirable segment of younger beer drinkers, aged 21 to 29, had waned.
By 1994 Anheuser-Busch determined that
Budweiser’s image—carefully cultivated through visible ad campaigns—sorely needed to be energized and updated. That year Anheuser-Busch severed its long-term relationship with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, the agency that had created the iconic 1979 ‘‘This Bud’s for You’’ campaign that featured hardworking, Budweiserdrinking blue-collar laborers. Prior to this dismissal, however, D’Arcy had produced a single TV spot that would lay the groundwork for one of Budweiser’s most popular advertising platforms of all time. That initial commercial, featuring three swampdwelling frogs who stared at a neon Budweiser sign and who each croaked a syllable of the brand name in turn, immediately resonated with consumers. DDB Needham Chicago (the agency later dropped ‘‘Needham’’ from its name), one of the group of ad agencies Anheuser-Busch chose to work with after severing its relationship with D’Arcy Masius, followed this introductory commercial with more than a dozen spots featuring the amphibians croaking out the syllables of the Budweiser brand in humorous scenarios. Over the course of the next two years the campaign almost single-handedly vaulted the Budweiser brand out of its slump. Sales of the brew among younger beer drinkers boomed; industry publications, including Advertising Age, lauded the campaign’s creativity and wit; and polls measuring consumer response revealed that the ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign was one of the most popular ever.
Anheuser-Busch was under constant pressure to end the beloved ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign, though. Children’s advocacy groups claimed that the commercials were designed to ‘‘hook’’ kids on the Budweiser brand by using ‘‘critters.’’ In 1996 a survey of San Francisco–area children revealed that 9- to 11-year-olds were more likely to recall the Budweiser frogs than they were Smokey Bear or Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger. The company was also aware of the risk of taking the ‘‘Frogs’’ concept beyond the point of freshness and innovation.

The lizards’ saga of jealousy and murderous rage, as presented in the ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ spots, was designed to capture the same audience pursued by the ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign. Attracting men aged 21 to 29 had long been the aim for beer advertisers. Not only did these younger drinkers consume far more beer than their over-30 counterparts, but also, they cemented their beer brand loyalty during these years of their lives. In the 1990s, however, Anheuser-Busch was plagued both by younger consumers turning to trendier microbrews and by a falling number of 20-somethings in the population at large. The smaller pool of younger drinkers was more likely to consider Budweiser as their ‘‘father’s brand’’ and less as the choice for a younger generation.
The ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign did much to reinvigorate the brand’s image among more youthful drinkers. Advertising Age correlated a near tripling of this age group’s awareness of Budweiser with the release of the ‘‘Frogs’’ commercials. The so-called Generation X, however, was more media-savvy than its predecessors and thus more likely to lose interest in a campaign. ‘‘They look to advertising and marketing as almost a spectator sport,’’ a specialist in targeting Generation X consumers told the Sacramento Bee. The lizards, especially Louie, with his solipsistic plot to overthrow the frogs and become a commercial star, provided Anheuser-Busch with the perfect opportunity to deliver a style of tongue-in-cheek humor that often performed well with the target audience. By purposefully poking fun at the ‘‘Frogs’’ campaign—which was beginning to wear thin with some viewers—the ‘‘Lizards’’ commercials delivered a sophisticated spoof on advertising itself. Beverage World agreed that it was the type of consciously cultivated ‘‘self-deprecating’’ humor that sold well with consumers in their 20s.

Anheuser-Busch’s largest rivals launched their own advertising campaigns to capture the same demographic group targeted by the ‘‘Lizards’’ commercials. Miller Brewing Co., always a strong competitor, teamed up with Portland-based ad agency Wieden+Kennedy to create the ‘‘It’s Time to Drink Beer’’ campaign for Miller Genuine Draft (MGD) in 1997. With Miller facing the same stagnating sales figures as Budweiser, its campaign was intended to reposition MGD as the hip brand of the 1990s. Following the popular resurgence of 1970s fashion, the black-and-white commercials featured frolicking youths wearing bell-bottom jeans and swigging MGD to funk music. But the Miller campaign employed the same irreverent humor that marked Louie’s rants. ‘‘It’s time for good old macrobrew’’ made in ‘‘vats the size of Rhode Island,’’ one commercial proclaimed in block type. Miller’s vice president of marketing explained to Beverage World that the target market of the MGD campaign did not ‘‘like typical advertising.’’ Like Budweiser’s ‘‘Lizards,’’ MGD’s campaign also sought not to exclude women and minorities—two groups noticeably absent from earlier beer commercials. Instead of avoiding the issue with ‘‘critter’’ ads, MGD’s ‘‘It’s Time to Drink Beer’’ sought to build a more modern image through an inclusive cast of characters. Women appeared in the commercials but danced and drank with ‘‘the boys.’’ Their function was not that of sex symbols. African-Americans with outrageously tall afro hairstyles (again reminiscent of the 1970s) were prominently featured in the campaign as well.
Adolph Coors Brewing Co., the third-largest American brewery, relaunched its Original Coors beer in 1996 with a $10 million advertising campaign. For years Coors had dedicated most of its efforts to marketing Coors Light. The Original Coors commercials were themed ‘‘the last real beer’’ and centered on the notion that Original Coors was an ‘‘honest,’’ anti-elitist brew.

Although Anheuser-Busch would not reveal the exact dollar amount it committed to the saga of Louie and Frank, the company typically spent between $300 and $350 million a year on advertising during the years that ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ ran. The bulk of that figure was dedicated to Budweiser and Bud Light, and multiple campaigns for each brand tended to run simultaneously. This giant budget ensured that Anheuser-Busch was able to support Budweiser with a ‘‘total advertising effort,’’ according to the company. In addition to a vast array of ‘‘Lizard’’ television commercials, the reptiles also appeared in national radio spots, on promotional clothing, in outdoor and print ads, and as the sponsors of athletes and sporting events.
Indeed, if there was one word to encapsulate
Anheuser-Busch’s strategy in reaching its target audience, it would be sports. The television commercials were usually aired during big-ticket athletic events watched by millions of American viewers. The campaign debuted during a National Basketball Association (NBA) game carried by NBC, made numerous Super Bowl appearances, and often ran during Major League Baseball games and the Monday Night Football series.
Radio spots were similarly broadcast during sporting events. Not only did Anheuser-Busch dole out considerable funds to ensure that Budweiser was named the ‘‘Official Beer of Major League Baseball’’ in 1998 but it also crafted specialized radio commercials for baseball fans. Budweiser also sought and achieved the distinction of being recognized as the ‘‘Official Beer of NASCAR,’’ the stock-car racing circuit. In conjunction with this development, Louie the Lizard was painted on the Budweiser team’s car in 1998. Michael LaBroad, director of Budweiser marketing, explained in a press release that the company was ‘‘always looking for ways to extend our advertising icons beyond television.’’
The ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ spots starred Louie and Frank, two disaffected animatronic lizards who felt spurned because Anheuser-Busch had made stars of the earlier Bud campaign’s croaking frogs instead of them. ‘‘I can’t believe they went with the frogs,’’ Louie complained to Frank in a distinct Brooklyn accent in the campaign’s first commercial. ‘‘Our audition was flawless.’’ Perhaps the best known of the commercials were those released during the 1998 Super Bowl in a sequence of four spots that related Louie’s attempt to assassinate the frogs (and thus be able to take their place) by hiring a ferret hit man. The campaign continued with Louie trying out a Texas accent after he learned that one of the Bud frogs he had tried to eliminate was a Texan. ‘‘Frank, these Texans, they hold grudges,’’ said Louie. ‘‘You know the phrase, ‘Remember the Alamo?’ Well now it’s going to be ‘Remember the frog.’’’ In July 1998 a commercial showed Louie being given a chance to join the croaking-frogs chorus. But he became flustered and botched the shoot, crying, ‘‘I can’t work in this environment. Cut! Cut!’’
As the campaign matured, the jealousy plotline escalated. Although the ferret successfully managed to electrocute the frogs with the neon sign on which they so obsessively focused, the frogs lived. The incomprehensibly gibbering ferret was well received by consumers and Anheuser-Busch executives and became a regular character in the campaign. In 2000 Louie’s jealousy found a new target: the cast of another set of DDB-created Budweiser spots, the enormously popular ‘‘Whassup?!’’ campaign.
That effort, centering on the comically ebullient
‘‘Whassup?!’’ greeting exchanged, with elaborate tonguewagging, among friends, had for the moment eclipsed even the universally famous frogs and lizards. (‘‘Whassup?!’’ parodies flooded the Internet, and the campaign won the Grand Prix at the 2000 International Advertising Festival in Cannes.) Louie claimed, with characteristic resentment, that the ‘‘Whassup?!’’ crew had stolen the protruding-tongue idea from him.
Always wary of overexposing even its most successful advertising concepts, Anheuser-Busch sent the swamp creatures into semiretirement midway through 2000, and the hiatus lasted roughly a year. In 2001 Louie and company reappeared in commercials that, surprisingly, were aimed at an over-40 audience. These spots included work that mimicked Budweiser product-quality advertising of the past as well as further ferret-related drama. The swamp-creatures storyline again faded from the airwaves, only to reappear briefly in 2004. Amid an increasingly acrimonious advertising spat between Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller (the parent company of Miller Brewing), which had been initially triggered by Miller’s claims that its Miller Lite had fewer carbohydrates than Bud Light, Louie was tapped to foment the anti-Miller sentiment. Anheuser-Busch again allowed the lizards to be resurrected in 2005 at the request of JibJab, the animation team that had created a wildly popular online cartoon parodying the 2004 presidential-campaign efforts of George W. Bush and John Kerry. JibJab, given creative license to spread the Budweiser message online, showcased the lizards and frogs in a barbershop singalong deriding drinkers of pretentious cocktails and wine.

In addition to constructing an elaborate plotline in the ‘‘Lizards’’ campaign, Goodby and Anheuser-Busch made up profiles for their new stars, Louie and Frank. On Budweiser’s Web page Goodby created ‘‘Bios and Headshots’’ for the reptiles. Using the same cute humor that defined the commercials, these profiles listed such fictional details as Louie’s ‘‘Last Book Read’’ (The Work Habits of Seven Highly Effective Lizards) and ‘‘Hobbies’’ (‘‘swatting flies, tracking grasshoppers, and bowling’’). Moreover, in press releases Budweiser executives spoke of the lizards as though they were real. A marketing representative was quoted as saying, ‘‘We’re delighted that Louie and Frank have decided to spend their summer with us in Texas.’’

The exploits of the disgruntled reptiles quickly won popular approval. USA Today ’s Ad Track survey of adult consumers revealed that the campaign was among the most popular in modern advertising history. Anecdotal evidence and analysts’ observations indicated that the ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ campaign connected with the desired audience. Janine Misdom, a Manhattan marketing- firm partner, explained to the Sacramento Bee why consumers under 30 responded to the Louie and Frank saga: ‘‘It’s funny, it’s a little bit nostalgic, and there’s a little bit of the bad-boy thing.’’ On June 22, 1998, USA Today reported that its most recent Ad Track indicated that the ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ campaign appealed to consumers across lines of class and age. Marketing insiders heaped praise on Goodby’s lizards. Advertising Age commended the campaign as the ‘‘Best of Show’’ from a pool of nationally aired commercials. The TV campaign won a Silver Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival in 1998. In 2000 the radio portion of the campaign was awarded a gold, two silvers, and two bronzes at the Clio Awards (one of the world’s largest advertising-awards programs), while the TV campaign took home a bronze Clio Award.
Neither ‘‘Louie the Lizard’’ nor ‘‘Whassup?!’’ could arrest Budweiser’s seemingly permanent sales slide, however. This led many advertising-industry observers to question the value of Budweiser’s marquee image-building campaigns, but Anheuser-Busch felt that the declines were the inevitable result of changing American tastes in beer. Besides, Budweiser advertising was meant to have the ancillary effect of driving sales of other Anheuser-Busch brands, especially Bud Light, which in 2001 surpassed Budweiser to become the best-selling beer in the United States.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Anheuser-Busch Companies, the largest beer maker in the world, introduced Bud Light to its product line in 1982. In those days the light beer market was relatively young and was dominated by Miller Lite, a beer made by Anheuser-Busch’s main competitor, the Miller Brewing Company. ‘‘Light’’ beers are so named because they contain fewer calories (and less alcohol) than ‘‘regular’’ beer. To create a market niche for its new product, Anheuser-Busch relied heavily on creative advertising campaigns to generate consumer awareness about its new brand and to alter the perception that Miller Lite was the only reduced-calorie beer available on the market. This approach proved to be quite successful, and Bud Light steadily gained in sales and market share at the expense of Miller Lite. By 1993 Bud Light had overtaken Miller Lite to become the best-selling light beer in the United States.
In the mid-1990s, however, the entire beer market had begun to slump as American alcohol consumption declined overall. Moreover, demographic trends indicated a decrease in the number of consumers between the ages of 21 and 30, the prime beer-drinking years. Bud Light was particularly affected by this decline. It lost its number-one position in the light beer market back to Miller Lite and struggled to create an advertising campaign that could reinvigorate its sales figures. To halt this decline, Anheuser-Busch turned to the DDB Needham advertising agency, the shop that had created the initial Bud Light campaign in 1982 that launched the brand to prominence.
DDB Needham sought to craft a campaign that would appeal to a generation of young men raised on sitcoms and commercials but that would also not alienate either older drinkers or women, who might prefer a light beer because of its lower calorie count. The ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign, which debuted in 1995, was designed to serve these multiple goals. The first spot of the campaign featured ‘‘Johnny,’’ a scruffylooking man in his mid- to late thirties fishing off the end of a pier with his father and brother. Saucer-eyed, Johnny looks over to his father and says, in a voice redolent with emotion, ‘‘Dad. Well, you’re my dad. And I love you, man.’’ His father eyes him coolly and responds, ‘‘You’re not getting my Bud Light, Johnny.’’ Subsequent commercials showed Johnny pulling similar faux-sincere beer scams on his brother and girlfriend, always without success.
Anheuser-Busch ran the commercials heavily during major sporting events, including Major League Baseball’s World Series and the Super Bowl, generally the highest-rated television broadcast of the year. Marketing surveys revealed the campaign’s popularity. A poll conducted for USA Today by the Louis Harris Company revealed that 34 percent of those surveyed liked the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ spots ‘‘a lot,’’ which compared quite favorably with the 23 percent average for other commercials rated. As the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ tag line insinuated its way into popular culture (actor Rob Fitzgerald, who played Johnny, appeared on David Letterman’s latenight show), Anheuser-Busch sought to expand the campaign’s appeal. Fitzgerald was featured in profiles in People magazine and USA Today, and DDB Needham strove to develop new scenarios in which Johnny could beg for Bud Light. The fourth and final ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ commercial debuted during the 1996 Super Bowl and featured actor Charlton Heston. In it Johnny crashes a Hollywood party and meets the Bud Light-drinking Heston, who is perhaps best known for his roles as Moses and in the movie Planet of the Apes. Heston coaches Johnny on how to say the famous line but remains immune when Johnny turns the appeal on him. ‘‘Since the viewers already know the punch line, we needed to take Johnny’s character someplace bigger,’’ campaign creator David Merhar told Life magazine. ‘‘Everything leading up to the line had to be the funny part.’’
The campaign was a resounding success. Bud Light sales rose 12 percent while the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ commercials ran, recapturing the number one slot in the light beer market and rising to become the second best-selling beer in the United States, behind only Anheuser-Busch’s flagship brand Budweiser. Wary of overexposing the premise, Anheuser-Busch quietly ended the campaign in 1997.

When Anheuser-Busch brought out Bud Light in 1982, the light beer market was dominated by Anheuser-Busch’s closest competitor, the Miller Brewing Company, and its Miller Lite beer. Miller’s advertising campaign, featuring famous retired athletes and other well-known personalities debating whether Miller Lite was a superior beer because it tasted great or because it was less filling, established the brand as a major feature of the beer landscape. Miller Lite’s success demonstrated the impact a popular advertising campaign could have on sales volume in the highly competitive beer market and the growth potential for light beers in general. Anheuser-Busch wanted to tap into this growing market with Bud Light.
Anheuser-Busch’s first ad campaign in support of its new offering focused on generating name recognition for the brand and altering the consumer’s assumption that light beer meant Miller Lite. This television campaign presented various people walking into bars and saying ‘‘Gimme a light.’’ In response, they were offered items ranging from neon signs to dogs jumping through flaming hoops to blowtorches. ‘‘No,’’ the surprised consumers would respond, ‘‘Bud Light.’’ The humorous ads were quite successful, and Bud Light gradually began to erode Miller Lite’s commanding share of the market.
Bud Light’s advertising success continued with the 1987 launch of its Spuds McKenzie campaign. This series, featuring a bull terrier dubbed ‘‘the original party animal,’’ followed the exploits of this ladies’ hound as he celebrated life and Bud Light in the company of skimpily dressed women. Boosted by the popularity of this campaign (which generated an entire subindustry of Spuds paraphernalia, including tee shirts and hats), Bud Light sales continued to climb. However, the Spuds ads also drew heavy criticism from parents and anti-alcohol groups concerned that the use of the endearing canine was intended to appeal to children under the legal drinking age. Anheuser-Busch adamantly denied any intent to target people under age 21, but the company also responded by recasting Spuds as a youthful executive striving to spread a message encouraging responsible drinking. This shift did not placate the critics, and the campaign was discontinued in 1989. Anheuser-Busch rejected the notion that the Spuds ads were eliminated because of outside pressure. But as a senior executive at DDB Needham, the agency that created the ads, told the Wall Street Journal, ‘‘You have to pay attention to what’s being said. If you don’t, the heat gets hotter.’’ Bud Light’s strong growth continued through the early 1990s. By 1993, Bud Light had overtaken Miller Lite as the best-selling light beer in the United States. Moreover, the light beer market as a whole continued to expand. ‘‘Unlike the diet segment in soft drinks,’’ Beverage Marketing Corporation chairman Michael Bellas said in Beverage World, ‘‘the light category is a significant [part of the entire beer market,]’’ rather than just a small subcategory of its own. By 1997 three of the five best-selling beers in America were light beers: Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light.
Bud Light could not afford to rest on its laurels, however. While light beer’s share of the beer industry grew, total beer sales volume flattened throughout the early and mid-1990s. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, this stagnation could be attributed to ‘‘the changing tastes of baby boomers . . . and lack of enough 21 year olds to take their place.’’ Bud Light was hit particularly hard in the mid-1990s, ceding its newly acquired primacy back to Miller Lite.

Anheuser-Busch targeted its Bud Light advertising predominantly to the 21 to 30-year-old market. Twentysomethings consumed more beer than people in any other age bracket. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted, ‘‘Beer consumption declines with age. The biggest drop occurs when a person reaches 34, [but] with a majority of the population over 30, the [beer] industry has reached a glass ceiling.’’ Moreover, drinkers in their twenties were more liable to form their lifelong brand preferences during this decade of their lives. A spokesman for Miller Brewing Company concluded in Beverage World that ‘‘the most evolving dynamic is the 21- to 30-year group . . . . It would take a lot of pounding away to try to accomplish a [brand] switch [after that].’’ Although not wanting to ignore older consumers, especially the increasingly health-conscious baby boomers who might be more drawn to a lower-calorie beer, the company recognized the significance of the youth market. ‘‘Marketing, and 21- to 30-year-old men’s receptivity to it, is absolutely critical to a beer brand’s success,’’ Budweiser’s vice president of brand management Bob Lachky told the Dallas Morning News. DDB Needham attempted to reach this market by crafting ads that were irreverent and entertaining. This approach was a necessary one to reach this audience. As Mark Johnson, director of brand management for Miller Lite told the Sacramento Bee, ‘‘This is a savvy audience. They started shopping earlier, they’ve had candy marketed to them, they’ve had Channel One in their classrooms. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, they’ve bought the t-shirt.’’As Anheuser-Busch learned from its ‘‘Gimme a Light’’ campaign, humor was a very effective way of reaching its preferred audience. However, the sort of humor employed was quite significant. The company could not afford to alienate potential customers—particularly women, who were often ignored in traditional beer advertising. Jim Schumacker, a vice president of Bud Light marketing, recognized the challenge posed by creating Bud Light promotional spots in USA Today:
‘‘Bud Light advertising is more difficult to create than Budweiser’s because Light’s customers are more diverse . . . . That means ads must appeal to both sexes.’’ Anheuser-Busch had received a great deal of criticism for the sexism implicit in the Spuds McKenzie campaign. After an outcry from women (who were drinking more beer with each passing year of the 1980s and 1990s) and even from trade such publications as Ad Age (which in 1993 condemned most beer ads for using women to ‘‘represent sexual imagery and nothing else’’), Anheuser-Busch recognized a need for care in its selection of promotional messages. ‘‘Treating women as objects is not in tune with today’s markets,’’ Lachky told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign sought to appeal to its target audience by tweaking on a familiar cultural trope. The opening scenes of emotional bonding were designed ‘‘to pull people in like a Hallmark card,’’ David Merhar, the DDB Needham creative executive who devised the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ concept, explained to the Wall Street Journal. Media-literate 20-somethings were quick to grasp the reference and adored the concluding twist where the smarmy appeal for Bud Light was resoundingly rebuffed. In fact, the spots were so popular among their chosen demographic that ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ became a cultural catchphrase, being recited on talk shows, comedy routines, and even casually among beer drinkers. ‘‘I have definitely said ‘I love you, man’ to my friends,’’ reported one consumer interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

Bud Light’s main competitors in the light beer market were Coors Light, made by the Adolph Coors Company, which was the third-largest brewer in the United States, and Miller Lite. Although Coors Light’s sales were good (revenue generated by the brand surpassed the Coors Company’s flagship brand Original Coors in 1987 and increased every year for the next decade), Bud Light had its sights set squarely on surpassing Miller Lite. In 1990 Bud Light controlled 19 percent of the light beer market, while Miller Lite retained a strong 33 percent. Three years later Bud Light surpassed Miller Lite as the best-selling light beer in America, as its light beer market share rose to 30 percent while Miller Lite’s dropped to 22 percent. This lead was short lived, however, as Miller Lite rebounded to first place during a period in which sales volumes for both competitors decreased. But the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign elevated Bud light sales and restored the Anheuser-Busch brand to primacy, frustrating the Miller Brewing Company so much that it pulled its advertising account from the Leo Burnett agency in December 1996 and gave it to the Minneapolis-based Fallon McElligot firm.
Fallon McElligot recognized the necessity of appealing to the under-30 market and devised offbeat anti-ads attributed to the fictional account executive superstar ‘‘Dick.’’ These ‘‘Ads by Dick’’ had an ironic sensibility designed to reach the younger target market. Early spots in the campaign were introduced by a 1970s-style year book picture displayed on the screen, while the voiceover declared: ‘‘This is Dick. Dick is a creative superstar and the man behind the advertising you are about to witness. We gave Dick a six-pack of Miller Lite and some money and asked him to come up with a commercial for Miller Lite.’’ This inside-jokey style continued throughout the ads. One of the first of the more than 50 ‘‘Ads by Dick’’ Fallon McElligot produced showed a group of Lite-drinking cowboys slowly sauntering into the men’s room of their rustic bar to the strains of ‘‘Adios Amigos.’’ Another portrayed a rancher trading a truckload of Miller Lite to a turncoat steer in exchange for information about a planned stampede. In a third spot, a group of professional wrestlers were shown faking their moves in the ring. Later, they adjourned to a bar where they poured their cans of Miller Lite right past their mouths without making contact.
Miller Brewing Company hoped the new ad campaign would reinvigorate its flagging sales and increase the favorable impression of its brand among consumers. ‘‘We wanted to redefine the brand and do it quickly,’’ Mike Johnson, Miller Lite’s brand director told Adweek. ‘‘We wanted something that would shake up the system to say it’s not the same old Miller Lite.’’ To ensure its message reached the widest possible distribution, Miller tripled its advertising budget to support the ‘‘Ads by Dick’’ campaign, spending $38.7 million dollars during the first quarter of 1997 alone, nearly 70 percent of Miller Brewing Company’s total beer advertising budget. The campaign proved successful, as Miller Lite’s sales in supermarkets rose 13 percent and total sales rose 1.7 percent overall in 1997. ‘‘Awareness of the brand is high, recall is high, and sales are up,’’ Johnson said. The popularity of the campaign forced Anheuser-Busch to increase its own advertising budget to retain its lead in the market.

Anheuser-Busch employed its tried-and-true strategy of high-profile athletic event advertising for the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign. The commercials ran during major sporting events, such as the National Basketball Association’s playoffs and telecasts and Major League Baseball’s World Series. They appeared during regularseason broadcasts as well. The Charlton Heston ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ commercial debuted during the 1996 Super Bowl.
At least as important as placement, however, was the tone Anheuser-Busch sought to strike in the ads. By using humor and an absence of sexual messaging, the company was able to avoid alienating potential consumers who did not happen to be men between the ages of 21 and 30. But by making the commercials entertaining and ironic, Anheuser-Busch was still able to play directly to the sensibilities of its desired audience. As Beverage World noted, ‘‘[Generation] X-ers also appreciate marketing with a sense of humor. Bud Light’s ‘I love you, man’ commercials offer an astute marketing approach to Generation X-ers.’’
Once Anheuser-Busch recognized the popularity of the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign, it strove to expand on it, pushing the campaign beyond traditional advertising formats. ‘‘The question became, ‘How can I take an idea that’s going to be on paid media and get some extra boost out of it?’’’ Bob Lachky, Anheuser-Busch’s director of brand marketing explained to the Wall Street Journal. To accomplish this goal, the company arranged for profiles of Rob Fitzgerald, the actor who played Johnny, to appear in such publications as People and USA Today. Fitzgerald also made other public appearances on behalf of the brand and was twice invited onto Late Night with David Letterman.

The inspiration for the ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign came from the real-life experience of David Merhar, the DDB Needham associate who conceived of the ads. After a dinner at home with his 61-year-old father, Merhar hugged his dad and uttered the now-famous words, ‘‘I love you, man.’’ As Merhar explained to USA Today, ‘‘This is how guys say ‘I love you,’ with a little disclaimer.’’

The ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ campaign was a tremendous success. Immediately prior to the campaign, Bud Light had been struggling. During its run, however, Bud Light became the fastest-growing beer in America, with its market share topping 10 percent of the total U.S. beer market. ‘‘Years from now, this will be the case study of how to turn around a dying brand,’’ Modern Brewery Age editor Peter Reid told the Portland Oregonian. DDB Needham did not disguise its pleasure with the results. ‘‘Advertising has established the brand as hip, and that translates into sales,’’ Bob Scarpelli, chief creative officer and vice chairman of the ad agency, told the Dallas Morning News.
The campaign’s success was not just limited to the beer market. The ‘‘I Love You, Man’’ ads became a fullscale cultural phenomenon. As the Oregonian reported, ‘‘The line is the new mantra of the TV-watching crowd, like ‘Where’s the beef’ before it. Signs proclaiming ‘I love you, man’ are all over the stands at sporting events.’’ ‘‘I love ‘I love you, man,’’’ concurred one 26-year-old interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. ‘‘It’s a total manly moment.’’ That response was exactly what Anheuser-Busch had hoped for when it launched the campaign.