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Clydesdales Dominate A-B Super Bowl Lineup

Brewer Previews Five of Seven Spots, All From DDB

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch may have a new owner, but its iconic Clydesdales loom larger than ever in the brewer's 2009 Super Bowl lineup.

In 'Circus,' Jake goes to epic lengths to rekindle a romantic flame.
In 'Circus,' Jake goes to epic lengths to rekindle a romantic flame. Credit: Anheuser-Busch
The brewer's VP-marketing, Keith Levy, and chief creative officer, Bob Lachky, previewed five of A-B's game-high seven spots today during a conference call with members of the media. All five were produced by DDB, Chicago, although Mr. Lachky said Waylon Advertising, St. Louis, also has a Clydesdale spot in contention for the game. In all, there are likely to be three commercials featuring the mascots.

The focus on A-B's traditional icons comes following a year in which the brewer was taken over by Belgium-based InBev in a $52 billion merger. Mr. Lachky said while the brewer would have featured the Clydesdales anyhow, the sale played a part in their prominence. "People are looking to see what you're going to change," he said. "The best thing we can do is assure them that the things they love about our brands still remain."

The two Clydesdale spots previewed cast the horses in more physical roles than they have typically played in the past, with lots of running and jumping. In one, a Clydesdale -- "Jake," the Rocky-wannabe horse in last year's USA Today Ad Meter-winning spot -- goes to epic lengths to rekindle a romantic flame. In another, a Clydesdale tries to angle his way into a Dalmatian's game of fetch.

An ad from Waylon, which Mr. Lachky described but did not show, is said to focus on the Clydesdales' heritage and history.

A-B has featured at least one celebrity cameo in its Super Bowl lineups of late, with Carlos Mencia and Jay-Z showing up in recent years. This year's lineup includes a spot starring incoming "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien. The commercial opens with Mr. O'Brien resisting an offer to do an only-in-Sweden ad for Bud Light. He relents, of course, and what follows is likely to grab at least a few chuckles.

Mr. Lachky said the idea to use Mr. O'Brien first emerged in sales discussions with NBC, which was eager to promote his jump to "The Tonight Show," and that the final product was a collaboration between DDB and Mr. O'Brien's writers.

The lineup will also feature new installments in the "Drinkability" campaign for Bud Light.

A-B devoted all its spots last year to Budweiser and Bud Light, its largest brands, a departure from past years, when it highlighted a smaller brand such as Michelob or Budweiser Select in the game. A-B executives said at the time that the brewer -- which was incorporating dozens of new craft, import and specialty brands into its portfolio -- needed to use its largest platform to concentrate on its largest brands, which had lagged a bit that year.

But this year's lineup will include at least one ad for a smaller brand, which will air in the fourth quarter. Ads for Budweiser American Ale and Bud Light Lime, both from DDB, are in contention. Asked about the apparent reversal, Mr. Levy noted that last year A-B had no high-profile launches to tout. He also said the ads for brand extensions buttress the parent brands, Budweiser and Bud Light, as well.

Mr. Lachky said the company is eager to push Bud Light Lime as a year-round brand, as opposed to merely a summertime beer.

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