NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch's potential lineup for the Super Bowl contains a heavier-than-usual dose of its famous Clydesdale horses -- the better to provide something inspirational during times of economic strife and to remind viewers that the company that supports them isn't going away, said Bob Lachky, the brewer's chief creative officer.
A-B, which will run its first Super Bowl commercials since being acquired by Europe's InBev, expects to have its usual strong presence -- five minutes' worth of advertising -- in Super Bowl XLIII, slated for broadcast Feb. 1 on NBC from Tampa Bay, Fla. And the company anticipates staying in the gridiron classic for years to come, Mr. Lachky said. "There is a huge amount of respect for the marketing presence that we have, particularly at that time of year. I don't think it will be going away," he said. "I think we'll be in the Super Bowl for a long, long time, and I don't think that is even being questioned."
Famous for producing Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob and a host of other brews, A-B is perhaps the most scrutinized advertiser in every year's Super Bowl lineup and has been one of the heaviest spenders -- if not the largest -- on the game over the years. Between 1988 and 2007, A-B spent $274.2 million on Super Bowl advertising, according to TNS Media Intelligence. With the U.S. and the world reeling from a stiff economic downturn and credit crisis, A-B's ads -- which often play upon patriotic themes and make use of male humor -- may well gain more attention for what they say about consumer attitudes at a difficult time.
In keeping with the severe atmosphere affecting consumers, Anheuser is looking at three potential commercials that make use of its famous Clydesdale horses, Mr. Lachky said. The Clydesdales "reinforce, in a positive way and especially at a time when the country is in trying times, that people are looking for relief. I think it will be a very welcome message to see more than one Clydesdale spot from an entertainment standpoint, but also from the standpoint that the Clydesdales are not going away and Budweiser and Anheuser-Busch are here."
The company has run inspirational spots in the Super Bowl before -- and used the Clydesdales to deliver the message. In 2002, one ad featuring the horses showed them taking a moment to contemplate the changed Manhattan skyline in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, destruction of the World Trade Center.
Element of surprise
A-B is well-known for testing possible ads for its Super Bowl lineup again and again, with the final determination not coming until just before the game. Mr. Lachky said testing would continue well into January. Ads up for consideration at present are not guaranteed to show up in the game.
A-B is also preparing at least three ads for Bud Light, some of which will play upon the brewer's current "Drinkability" campaign. Humor, of course, is a prerequisite, Mr. Lachky said. Previous ads for Bud Light have featured Cedric the Entertainer, comedian Carlos Mencia and actor Will Ferrell offering a spate of humorous remarks while promoting his film "Semi-Pro." Others have centered on bawdy, physical humor, such as a bunch of guys slapping each other, or a horse passing gas during a couple's romantic buggy ride.
Bud Light will continue to emphasize the "drinkability" theme, Mr. Lachky said. "We are going to continue to work that theme, and, always, you're trying to dial up more clever ways to do it. Are there more appealing, entertaining ways to deliver that message."
In the limelight
Bud Light Lime is one brand that the company is considering giving a share of spotlight during the Super Bowl, said Mr. Lachky. Introduced in May of this year, the beer "is under consideration for inclusion in the game," he said. The ad would likely emphasize that Bud Light Lime is good all year long, not just during the summer and warmer times. Budweiser American Ale is also being considered for inclusion in the Super Bowl, Mr. Lachky said, though the company is "not certain that we're for sure on that one."
Ad agencies with commercials under consideration for the game include Omnicom Group's DDB Chicago, Havas' Euro RSCG Chicago and Waylon, an independent St. Louis firm that has done work for Anheuser in the past, Mr. Lachky said.