BUD LIGHT TURNS ON THE LOVE, MAN;A-B DRAFTS NEW CHARACTERS FOR FRESH EDGE IN ADS

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A year after giving the world "Yes, I am" as a catch phrase, Anheuser-Busch is hoping exposure to some new characters helps to further propel Bud Light's growth while again using humor to give the brew a distinctively cutting-edge attitude.

Abandoning at least for the moment its "Yes, I am" series with actor Eddie Jemison, as well as another series that featured men dressed as women trying to take advantage of ladies nights in bars, A-B this year has switched to mostly new themes.

One series features Johnny, who cozies up to his father in one spot and to his girlfriend in another in an effort to get a Bud Light. "I love you, man" is the signature line for the ads from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago. The spots also repeat the Bud Light main campaign theme of "Never fills you up, won't let you down."

A second series appearing on late night expands on last year's floating head spot in which a disembodied head identified as "Brent" floats above scenes asking people for Bud Light.

In the latest commercial the head tries to convince some cowboys to give him a Bud Light but they lasso him instead.

"We felt that with the `Ladies Night' and Eddie [spots], we were kind of playing those guys pretty hard and it was time to develop new characters," said Jim Schumacker, director of marketing for Bud Light.

Apparently also contributing to the decision was Mr. Jemison's fear of typecasting.

Mr. Jemison's "Yes, I am" line was repeated numerous times last year, including by President Clinton.

The new spots were launched several months ago but recently have been getting increased play.

"We used this year's NBA finals to really seed the character and people are starting to talk about it. They find it humorous," Mr. Schumacker said.

A-B has made no final decision yet on producing additional spots in the series but the company has begun developing point of purchase, normally an indication of plans to expand the campaign.

Mr. Schumacker said A-B looks at the new spots as a continuation of the "Never fills you up, won't let you down" campaign.

Bud Light, which last year surpassed Miller Lite to become the country's No. 2 beer, saw shipments increase 10.7% to 16.5 million barrels, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.

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