DON'T BLAME D'ARCY

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As the team of Clydesdale horses clip-clops briskly along Interstate 55, bringing a barrel of Bud billings from St. Louis to DDB Needham Worldwide in Chicago, we offer a "well done" to the losing agency, D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

When D'Arcy got the account 79 years ago, it led Bud to the top, surpassing the once-mighty Schlitz brand. It used to be that "when you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer"; it became "When you say Budweiser, you've said it all."

Today, Bud is still No. 1 but light beer has become an entrenched segment and a real threat to unseat the long-time beer leader.

DMB&B may have been a victim of its own success. Two campaign themes dominate the relationship: "When you say Bud ..." and the blue-collar "This Bud's for you." How do you top some of that earlier work? When Miller Brewing switched agencies for Miller Lite, new agency Leo Burnett Co. had to revive the successful "Tastes great/Less filling" theme of the shop that built the brand. Similarly, the newest-and final-campaign for Bud from D'Arcy desperately replayed "This Bud's for you."

The Busch family has always looked for tradition in its Budweiser advertising, with the Clydes-dales often getting more ad time than many agency people felt wise. And when company management dictates ad content, it's hard to blame the agency.

Budweiser's ad fortunes now rest with DDB Needham, which has done memorable work ("Give me a light") for Bud Light. The Bud challenge is daunting; beers that slide tend to keep sliding-witness Schlitz and Miller High Life, among others.

Massive marketing has kept the Bud wagon and team going, but social trends may be irreversible. D'Arcy may actually look with relief on the day the Clydesdales trudged north.

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