"Deja ... vu, deja ... vu."
For Ms. Hannah and many other past or current residents of the Pacific Northwest, the spot from Anheuser-Busch looked like a replay of a 1970s ad for Rainier beer.
"It was a complete rip-off ... the Rainier ads were cult classics around Seattle," said Ms. Hannah, who worked in the area through the 1970s and '80s. She's now VP-marketing at water sports company Hang Ten International in San Diego.
During the '70s, the regional Rainier brand rocketed to local fame with a series of quirky ads from Heckler Associates. One of the best-known featured a shot of Mount Rainier. As the camera lingered on the mountain looming above the trees, viewers heard a chorus of frogs. Eventually, they were heard to speak the brand name.
Heckler Associates President Terry Heckler is still involved with beer advertising in Seattle, doing work for microbrewer Redhook Ale Brewery. He saw the Bud spot and said he "really liked" it.
Was he maybe just a little bit put out?
"Not at all," Mr. Heckler insisted, then added slyly: "Just tell Budweiser that there's lots more where that one came from."
Another who noticed the similarity was Bill Borders, chief creative officer of Portland, Ore., agency Borders Perrin & Norrander (see Letters, Page 17).
Recalling Heckler's '70s Rainier ads, Mr. Borders said in an interview: "Those were the most talked-about ads in the region for years." His agency competed with Rainier, handling Portland's Weinhard Brewery.
The Rainier ads haven't appeared since the late 1970s, when the Seattle brewer was acquired by G. Heileman Brewing Co. "We get calls from time to time from people who just want to see the ads," said Randy Smith, a legal counsel for Heileman. He said Heileman also noticed the similarity and is considering some sort of action.
A-B said it was unaware of other executions, so no previous work influenced development of the Bud spot.
The frogs commercial was the last advertising created for Budweiser by D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis. Charlie Claggett, managing director-chief creative officer at DMB&B, was quick to deny the charges.
"That's rubbish," he said. "We didn't steal it from anybody. Nobody here remembers the [Rainier] spot."
Mr. Claggett noted that if the Rainier commercial ran in 1975, the two DMB&B creatives on the Bud spot would have been 6 and 12 years old.