Budweiser Breaks DDB's Nostalgia-Inspired Spots

New Work Focuses on Emotional Appeals -- but Not the 'Great American Lager' Tagline

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Earlier this year, frustrated that creative on its long-declining Budweiser brand wasn't connecting emotionally with consumers, Anheuser-Busch made DDB study vintage Bud ads from now defunct D'Arcy Massius Benton & Bowles and other agencies in an attempt to bring the brand back to its roots.

The fruit of that effort, a new campaign dubbed "It's What We Do," breaks this weekend.

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"The process was really to hone in on an effective brief," said Keith Levy, A-B's VP-marketing. "What are the things that built Budweiser and made this an iconic brand? We're trying to capture feelings like camaraderie and the idea that, in America, anything is possible if you work hard."

Unlike many of the classic A-B spots DDB mined -- including a famous 1980s D'Arcy effort in which a rookie baseball umpire gets called up to the big leagues and argues with a pro manager during his first game, only to have the manager buy him a Budweiser afterward -- the new spots don't utilize long-form storytelling.

Instead, they try to paint Budweiser as a constant in a world where fads regularly come and go. One of the three new spots, dubbed "Greetings," reminds viewers that while fist bumps, chest bumps, low fives, forearm grabs, head butts and bro hugs have all been briefly in fashion, "one greeting stands the test of time, with a beer that starts with full flavor and ends with a crisp, clean finish. That's what we do."

The ads are a departure from the 2-year-old "Great American Lager" platform, which focused heavily on Bud's brewing process and quality messaging. That effort failed to slow the brand's two decades-plus sales decline, which has accelerated to double-digit levels in some channels this year.

Mr. Levy denied that A-B was moving away from "Great American Lager" because A-B's new foreign ownership makes it untenable, noting that the phrase will remain on packaging and in certain communications.

"That had nothing to do with it," he said.

The new work will begin airing during the Major League Baseball playoffs tonight, and will likely be in heavy rotation in baseball and basketball broadcasts into the first quarter of 2010. A-B earlier this year opted to eliminate the hybrid sponsorships it has traditionally used and instead let Bud Light dominate football and hockey while Budweiser gets the bulk of basketball and baseball spends.

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