Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light and Omnicom Group's DDB Needham Chicago introduce a phenom among marketing mascots: Spuds MacKenzie, playboy bull terrier. (That's the voice of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" host Robin Leach talking up Spuds in this ad.)
The character took such hold that Macy's opened Spuds MacKenzie sections, L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art offered inflatable Spuds, and posters of Spuds surrounded by women became a top-seller, the Los Angeles Times reported in July 1987. People magazine that September had to run a report swatting down rumors that the dog playing Spuds, a female terrier named Honey Tree Evil Eye, had died in a limo crash, a plane crash, a hot tub or elsewhere. Bud Light credited the Spuds campaign with boosting sales by 20% between 1987 and 1988.
The campaign had its detractors. Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, in November 1987 held up a stuffed Spuds toy on the floor of the Senate as evidence that alcohol marketers "glamorize the use of alcohol" among people too young to legally drink, the Associated Press reported:
Thurmond quoted Michael Roarty, executive vice president of Anheuser-Busch, as saying Spuds MacKenzie was created to promote Bud Light only for those ''old enough to drink.''
But the senator said the stuffed animals, children's toys and T-shirts small enough to fit 12-year-olds ''indicate the real purpose of this campaign.''
Spuds came back to the Super Bowl in 1988 to compete in the Olympics ("Spuds MacKenzie Ski Jump") and 1989 for a responsible-drinking pitch plus a cameo in A-B's new Super Bowl franchise ("Bud Bowl Part 3"). The campaign wrapped near the end of the decade -- until Spuds made a miraculous one-time return in 2017 ("Ghost Spuds").Send credit info to [email protected].