CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl advertising lineup will have a slimmer, more international feel this year. For the first time, A-B will plug an import in the big game -- premium Belgian brew Stella Artois. And instead of running nine ads for a total of five minutes, as it did last year, A-B will air five ads that run over three-and-a-half minutes.
The rest of the slate will look pretty familiar: The Clydesdales are back in a 60-second Budweiser ad, and the brewer will devote a lot of time to Bud Light as usual -- three 30-second commercials that continue the "Here We Go" campaign.
The Stella spot is a 60-second commercial from independent agency Mother that continues the campaign launched late last year that features '60s-era European settings in ads that target well-educated, upscale beer drinkers with the tagline "She Is a Thing of Beauty."
The Super Bowl is the "right time and a great property to enhance the brand's awareness and do so in a way that's very consistent with its position and its imagery," said A-B President Dave Peacock, who gave Ad Age a preview of the Super Bowl spots.
A-B holds the exclusive beer advertising rights to the game, a deal Mr. Peacock said was recently extended by two years to 2014. He downplayed this year's shorter lineup, saying it fits A-B's historical average of three to five minutes.
"We do long-term contracts with the networks," he said. "The network that carries the game changes very year." The contracts, he said, "just kind of dictate how many commercials we have in the game."
The Clydesdales, which were initially dropped from last year's Super Bowl before the brewer reinstated them at the last minute after a fan poll, will be given a special focus this year and be in the hands of a new agency. Independent Anomaly, which began winning Budweiser work last year, is the new jockey not only for the Super Bowl ad but for two 15-second teaser Clydesdale ads that will run this weekend during the AFC and NFC championship games.
A-B is also partnering with a new agency, although not for a Super Bowl ad. Dentsu's McGarryBowen had submitted a Bud Light ad for Super Sunday, but A-B decided to run it this weekend instead, during the AFC and NFC championship games. "We let them produce a couple spots and had a good experience with them," Mr. Peacock said. "We don't know where that's going to lead ... but we we're pretty impressed with the work they've done."
The three Bud Light ads are all 30 seconds and will continue the "Here We Go" campaign that debuted at last year's Super Bowl. Two of the ads are by Omnicom Groups' DDB, Chicago, and one was done by St. Louis-based Cannonball.
The selection of DDB will undoubtedly be greeted with sighs of relief by that agency's executives, who saw all their Bud Light work rejected by A-B for last year's game -- news that seemed to indicate their continued struggle to stay in good graces with the brewer. (The shop did snare three Budweiser Super Bowl ads last year.)
"There was no intent to exclude them from the Super Bowl last year nor was there a specific drive to ensure they were included this year," Mr. Peacock said. "We choose the spots that kind of tested the best and the ones that we felt would have the greatest impact in driving the objectives of the brand."
The brewer's brands have struggled as of late, with Budweiser and Bud Light both losing share in the past year, according to SymphonyIRI, which measures grocery sales, excluding Walmart, club and liquor stores. Bud Light sales fell by 0.2% in the year ending Jan. 2 and Bud was down 5.9%.
With Anomaly, the brewer is seeking to position Budweiser for a younger generation with the music-laden, no-dialogue "Grab Some Buds" campaign that features scenes such as rock concerts and grill outs.
"Getting a brand to be reappraised the way we want with Budweiser takes some time," Mr. Peacock said, noting the campaign was only about 5 months old. "We need to continue with that campaign and show some consistency with our consumers so they understand what we're trying to say about the brand."
And for Anomaly, that will likely mean more work to come, perhaps at the expense of DDB, which had been the lead agency for Budweiser brand in the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Indeed, Anomaly has even begun to win global Bud work, with its ads now airing in several overseas markets, including the U.K. and Canada.
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