Not since 1989's "Bud Bowl" did an Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl spot start so much. "Frogs" would spawn parodies, spin-off merchandise and multiple swamp-set Super Bowl appearances via multiple agencies (see the 1998 ad sequence beginning with "Bad Day to Be a Frog" and 1999's sendoff beginning with "Frogs Fired").
It started with a 1994 directive from Mike Brooks, then Budweiser’s new brand director, telling D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles to find a way to “contemporize” the beer’s image. Copywriter Dave Swaine and art director Michael Smith in the St. Louis office of D’Arcy came up with a pitch that eschewed all the staples of Bud advertising to date, such as Clydesdales or product shots. Brooks bought in anyway.
The next step was to convince Anheuser-Busch President-CEO August Busch III using just a storyboard and an audio recording on tape cassette. As recounted in William Knoedelseder’s history of Anheuser-Busch, it didn’t take on the first try. Even after the second walk-through, Busch had questions for Brooks, not least about the expense:
"What’s it gonna cost?"
"Two point three million, sir."
"Two point three million," Brooks repeated, launching into a detailed description of all the animatronics, robotics, and hydraulics that would be required to bring the amphibians to life.
August listened intently and jotted notes. Brooks explained that the cost also included $1.2 million for the first airing of the commercial.
"Where’s it going to run?" August asked.
"In position 1-A during the Super Bowl," Brooks said. "That’s the first thirty-second commercial break after the first possession in the first quarter. It will be the first commercial anyone sees."
"You believe in this?" August asked.
"Yes, sir, I do."
"You willing to stake your job on it?"
August III broke into a broad smile and said, "Well, then go get ’em, Brooksie."
"Frogs" placed only ninth in USA Today’s Ad Meter that year but earned a Silver Lion award at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity and became a pop-culture touchpoint, including a parody on “The Simpsons.”
Director: Gore Verbinski, who would later direct feature films including “The Ring.” Producer: Chan Hatcher. Copywriter: Dave Swaine. Art director: Michael Smith. Visual effects: Stan Winston Studio, which also created the dinosaurs of “JurSend credit info to [email protected].