A-B's "Dude" campaign for Bud Light -- in which male protagonists respond to various mishaps and unmanly conduct with only the word "dude" -- is an unqualified smash hit for the brewer and its ad agency, DDB, Chicago. In addition to running on major national sports broadcasts, the two spots to date have been viewed online more than 14 million times via video sites such as YouTube, MSN and Break, as well as A-B's own Bud.TV and BudLight.com.
But the ads have also drawn notice for what some call a suspicious resemblance to earlier work. Consider that after the online magazine Slate ran a positive review of the "brilliant" campaign, its comments pages were quickly overrun by allegations of theft and plagiarism of, among other things, a recurring gag on a popular Tulsa, Okla., morning radio show, a Spanish-language Coors Light ad, an anti-drunk-driving campaign that aired in New Zealand, a scene from the 1998 film "Baseketball" and a 1980s stand-up act by the former "Saturday Night Live" star Rob Schneider.
"We didn't invent 'dude,'" said a DDB, Chicago, spokeswoman. "It touches on a truth about how young men communicate."
The spokeswoman said that creatives at DDB hadn't seen or even been aware of any of the aforementioned examples, which all consist of male characters communicating with only the word "dude" or its cultural equivalent.
Some of the people behind the earlier spots and sketches aren't so sure.
"I'd say they were probably inspired by our 'Dude Theater,' which we had on the air for three years [before the commercial came out]," said Don Cristi, programming director at Clear Channel-owned KMOD-FM in Tulsa, which runs a recurring "Masterpiece Theatre" gag on its airwaves and website, in which the characters vocabularies are limited to "dude" in its various inflections and incarnations.
Mr. Cristi -- who serves as operations manager for all of Clear Channel's Tulsa stations -- jokes that he can't really afford to take offense: A-B's Budweiser brand is one of his biggest advertisers.
The "dude" concept has also surfaced in the beer category before. A 2004 Spanish-language Coors Light ad from agency Bromley Communications showed a group of young men interacting in a bar using only the word guey, the Spanish equivalent to "dude."
The spot actually kicked up a minor firestorm because guey -- which also means "castrated bull" -- can be demeaning in certain contexts. To clarify its meaning, Bromley added a billboard reading "Guey=Dude" to the end of the spot, which ran on both English and Spanish TV. Bromley declined to comment on the Bud ads.
Another spot, an anti-drunk driving effort from Land Transport New Zealand that made its debut last August, about two months before "Dude" hit airwaves here, showed a group of young men in a similar bar setting, using only the word "mate" in their exchanges.
The ad's twist: A graphic car accident, which is followed by the other passengers' refusal to address the drunken driver as "mate" after his betrayal of them. "If you drive drunk, you're a bloody idiot," reads the closing copy.
There was also an all-dude dialogue scene in the 1998 movie "Baseketball" from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. And Mr. Schneider used a similar gambit in his 1980s stand-up days.
The relative merits of A-B's "Dude" and Mr. Schneider's were being debated by commenters on the website of Ad Age's sibling, Creativity.
"It was funnier when Rob Schneider did it. If you are going to steal from someone, at least make your final product better than what you stole it from, dudes," said one dissenter.