ACTUAL PEOPLE TO JOIN LIZARDS IN '98 BUDWEISER CREATIVE

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Anheuser-Busch will be featuring more flesh-and-blood humans in comic Budweiser spots as part of a '98 marketing plan that includes an increased focus on ethnic markets, a new non-alcoholic product and a slew of promotions.

At its wholesaler meeting last week, A-B previewed 20 new spots for Bud and Bud Light. Although the lizards and frogs are returning, several spots were people-populated for Bud, aiming to reverse a nine-year sales slide for the flagship brew.

"They're really trying to cut through the clutter," said one wholesaler who attended the convention.

He -- and several other wholesalers -- said the new work was some of the best they had seen from A-B. A-B officials couldn't be reached for comment.

DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, handles Bud Light and is the lead agency on Budweiser. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, also handles Bud.

THINKING ABOUT `IT'

In one new Bud spot shown to wholesalers, a group of women are standing in a bar and, nodding toward some leering guys, talk about how men think about "it" every 8 seconds. It turns out, however, the guys are ogling bottles of Bud.

In another spot -- which might not make it on broadcast TV -- a man mistakenly shows up nude at a beach. He cracks open a Bud and stays anyway.

A-B isn't abandoning the animatronic stars it has featured in Bud spots in recent years. The lizard and frog creative from Goodby will continue to run, although A-B is being cautious about overexposing it.

Also continuing will be heritage spots featuring CEO August Busch III and his son, VP-Marketing August Busch IV. A-B showed new creative focusing on ethnic markets, including ads in the African-American-focused "Hip-hops" campaign from C Front, Los Angeles, and unveiled new Hispanic-theme spots for Bud and Bud Light.

For Bud Light, two new ads featuring the Anglos who want to be Hispanic are on the way. In the latest spots, to run during the World Cup, the duo hangs out with a soccer team. Castor Group, New York, handled both efforts.

A-B will be running more Bud Light spots featuring the guys who dodge responsibility to drink the beer. In one, a guy claims he can't do yardwork because it's raining; his wife then discovers he has attached a sprinkler to the window.

The new creative is part of an aggressive 1998 marketing plan that includes spending more than $300 million on ads (AA, Dec. 1). A-B will invest 52% of its ad dollars in national media, vs. the 40% it doled out previously, said Tony Ponturo, VP-corporate media and sports marketing for A-B and president of Busch Media Group, St. Louis.

NASCAR PROMOTION

A-B will supplement the advertising with a range of summer promotions. For Bud, the brewer will be running an extensive promotion tied to the 50th anniversary of Nascar; a "Classic Summer" promo tied to "Baywatch" star Carmen Electra; and a "Classic Draughts" promo to pump up draft sales.

A-B also showed off some new products. One was Catalina, a low-alcohol beer now in test markets and not believed to be assigned to an agency.

The other was a caffeinated O'Doul's, which fits into A-B's plan to position the growing O'Doul's family as alternative beverages instead of just non-alcoholic beers.

Fusion Idea Lab, Chicago, handles O'Doul's.

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