BUD'S COEN-DIRECTED TV ADS ARE LIGHT AS ICE

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Six years after Anheuser-Busch abandoned the "Gimme a light" theme that helped establish Bud Light as one of the nation's top beers, the concept is going back on the air.

But this time, it's for a different beer.

A-B this week breaks spots for Ice Draft From Budweiser that are almost identical to the award-winning Bud Light campaign. DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, created both.

The Bud Light spots that aired from 1984 to 1988 featured bar patrons asking for a "lite"-meaning Miller Lite. Instead, the patrons got a "light": lamps, flashlights, light from spaceships.

In one commercial for Bud Ice (the moniker used in spots, although the formal name of Ice Draft From Budweiser remains), a man walks into a bar and asks for a "draft." When the refrigerator door opens, he's greeted with a blast of air that sends everything flying.

In another, someone who asks for "an ice" gets frozen solid, then defrosted with a blowtorch.

The new spots end with "Get it together with an icy smooth Bud Ice and new 96-calorie Bud Ice Light." The tagline varies slightly in areas where A-B hasn't begun distributing Ice Light, set to roll national by October.

The original Bud Light commercials helped create an identity distinct from Budweiser. But the brew eventually outgrew the campaign. These days, Bud Light has passed Miller Lite in sales, and A-B neither wants nor needs to compare its light beer with someone else's.

But Ice Draft's identity problems are similar to those that prompted the original Bud Light commercials.

"We have no problems in the supermarket, but in bars the people asking for Ice Draft are getting puzzled looks from bartenders," said Michael LaBroad, senior brand manager for Ice Draft. "People are not getting what they want."

Mr. LaBroad credited VP-Brand Management August A. Busch IV and A-B President Pat Stokes with the idea to return to the old campaign.

The new effort is tactical and won't replace Ice Draft's current image advertising. Still, A-B is taking the spots very seriously. Brothers Joel and Ethan Coen, cutting edge directors of films like "Raising Arizona," "Miller's Crossing," "Barton Fink" and "Hudsucker Proxy," are doing their first commercial work.

In reporting quarterly earnings last week, A-B Cos. said continued growth by Bud Ice and Bud Dry more than offset losses by Budweiser. The company's quarterly net income was up 4.5% to $323 million on 5.3% higher sales of $3.6 billion.

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