CAMPAIGN CLOUT;BUDWEISER'S NEW MENAGERIE HOPS TO THE TOP OF THE AD CHARTS

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"Bud" "Weis" "Er"-and the King of Beers becomes the king of commercials. After years of being outsmarted by the humor of its Bud Light offspring-except at the peak of "Bud Bowl"-Budweiser emerged as America's most outstanding TV campaign for 1995.

With able assists from other party animals (ants, clydesdales, etc. from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago), the original frogs from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, established you don't need a beer drinker in beer ads-a tradition Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser set the day after Prohibition ended.

That's when a wagon with Clydesdales driven by August Busch himself pulled up in front of the White House to restock the residence. Ever since, the Clydesdales have become the symbol of the brand and its advertising.

The final payoff was a long time coming. The brand had set off to shirk its "your father's beer" image. Throw in a challenge from the latest fad of micro-breweries and the job becomes enormous.

Bringing in creatures to the rescue wasn't completely without precedent. Alex the Dog made Stroh's a national brand; Spuds MacKenzie made Bud Light the best-selling light beer; and Red Dog has captured more than a 1% share of the market in just a year.

A risk was using all the animals to reach beer drinkers, but it turns out there are plenty who enjoy the new posturing.

"How many ants can party on a single Bud?" asked a respondent about his favorite commercial. "I didn't know you had to stretch your tongue so far to get a Bud," another mused. There was even one on which Joe Six-Pack couldn't improve: "If frogs can ask for a Budweiser, so can I."

And the results: Budweiser became the beer of preference as the advertising awareness among the younger prime group (21-27) tripled in less than a year, and the brand reduced the rate of decline.

Says August A. Busch IV, VP-brand management, who is credited with moving Budweiser commercials away from the sexist themes of the '80s, "We expect our advertising to stay ahead of the curve in creativity [with] a relevant message and worthy of the King of Beers."

Mr. Vadehra is president of Video Storyboard Tests, and he welcomes feedback. Write him at 107 E. 31st St., New York 10016, or fax him at (212) 689-0210. Campaign Clout reports on consumer response to current advertising.

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