Bud Light is channeling "Game of Thrones" in a new ad that tries to bring back the frivolous, funny marketing that propelled the brand in its heyday. The spot by Wieden & Kennedy marks the first of several upcoming humorous ads for the nation's largest brew, which in recent years has struggled to find the right tone to appeal to today's drinkers.
The new ad is called "Banquet" and debuted ahead of this weekend's "Game of Thrones" season finale. It shows people presenting a king and queen with increasing quantities of Bud Light. After one man makes the mistake of attempting to please the royals with a "spiced honey mead wine," he is banished to the "pit of misery." Throughout the ad, the made-up phrase "Dilly, Dilly" acts as a medieval version of "cheers."
"I think beer is inherently a fun product," says Andy Goeler, a longtime Anheuser-Busch employee who took over VP duties for Bud Light in March. "It's all about being with friends and having fun."
"This is, to me, is the personality of Bud Light," he added, recounting classic Bud Light catchphrases like "I Love You Man."
In recent years, Bud Light has veered from one campaign to the next, with each approach failing to connect with drinkers who are gravitating to wine and spirits and trendy craft brews. Bud Light's last real attempt at humor came in 2016 with the politically themed "Bud Light Party" campaign starring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen. But the punchlines were clouded by attempts to take positions on progressive causes such as gender pay equality. The ads fell flat and Anheuser Busch yanked the campaign in October amid slow sales, before the election even took place.
Bud Light shifted to the "Famous Among Friends" campaign in January with ads that included some humor but also plenty of sentimentality, including one ad that showed how the friendship of two men endured through the years. Spuds MacKenzie came back for a Super Bowl ad. But the party pooch's return was a one-time deal, leaving some industry observers scratching their heads as to why the brand would waste a pricey ad buy on a temporary creative device.
The new ads stick with the "Famous Among Friends" tagline. But Goeler is putting his stamp on the campaign by leaning way more into humor than previous ads in the campaign. "There's a lot of things you can do with 'Dilly, Dilly,'" he said, chuckling. "It's part of the fun. That's the Bud Light world." He also wants the brand to be culturally relevant, he said, confirming that the script of the new ad was influenced by "Game of Thrones."
While attempts at humor will consume the majority of Bud Light's upcoming ads, the brand will supplement the jokey spots with ads that focus on beer quality, he said. Two product-focused ads debuted earlier this month.