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NY Times

January 15, 2014 View Original Article

For Super Bowl, It’s Back to Basics for Anheuser-Busch

The Anheuser-Busch division of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which typically buys the most commercial time during the Super Bowl each year, has a game plan for Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 that is focused on its two core brands, Bud Light and Budweiser.

Those two beers – grappling with competitors like Coors Light as well as craft beers and imported brews – will be the only Anheuser-Busch brands advertised during the game, to be broadcast by Fox. Plans call for five commercials in total, two for Budweiser and three for Bud Light.

By comparison, last year the company ran three commercials devoted to a pair of new products, Budweiser Black Crown and Beck’s Sapphire, along with one commercial for Budweiser and two for Bud Light. And in 2012,Anheuser-Busch ran two spots for a new beer, Bud Light Platinum, along with two for Budweiser and two for Bud Light.

“We recognize there is pressure” on the mainstay brands, Paul D. Chibe, vice president for United States marketing at Anheuser-Busch, said in a phone interview on Tuesday. Bud Light is first in American beer sales and Budweiser is third, with Coors Light between them, in second place.

“As you know, the big brands are challenged,” Mr. Chibe said, and “we’re focused on addressing” that.

The five commercials that Anheuser-Busch plans to run will total three and a half minutes of commercial time in Super Bowl XLVIII. By comparison, the company bought four and a half minutes of ad time in the last two Super Bowls.

As the exclusive beer advertiser in the Super Bowl – a designation for which Anheuser-Busch pays a fee in addition to the costs of the airtime – “we have flexibility” to buy varying amounts of commercial time from year to year, Mr. Chibe said, “based on our needs.”

It is estimated that advertisers are paying in the neighborhood of $4 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time in the game. Ad time was sold out, Fox executive said, as of early December.

Although the brands on tap from Anheuser-Busch are being pared, the company still has an ambitious agenda.

For example, one Bud Light spot will promote a new reclosable aluminum package called the Cool Twist bottle, which Mr. Chibe said was the result of a corporate investment of $150 million. The commercial, being created by a St. Louis agency named Cannonball, is to be the first commercial to be shown in the first ad break of the first quarter. (Anheuser-Busch has had a lock on that ad slot for many years.)

There will also be a change in Bud Light ad themes, said Rob McCarthy, Bud Light vice president, with “Here we go,” introduced during the Super Bowl in 2010, to be replaced by “The perfect beer for whatever happens.”

The concept is “an evolution of ‘Here we go,’ updated with more input and knowledge from millennials,” Mr. McCarthy said, reflecting their “optimism” and how they are “open to whatever happens.”

(Fans of alcoholic beverages may recall a similar ad theme for Yellow Tail wine, which ran from 2009 to 2011, called “Open for anything.”)

The Bud Light spot devoted to the new bottle is to run 30 seconds. Two commercials will be devoted to explaining the new theme; those spots, 30 seconds and 60 seconds, will tell “one cohesive story” about an “epic night,” Mr. McCarthy said.

The new Bud Light commercials are from a new creative agency for the brand, Energy BBDO, which is the Chicago office of BBDO North America, part of the BBDO Worldwide division of the Omnicom Group.

Anheuser-Busch executives are still deciding which of the two Budweiser commercials to appear in the game will run 30 seconds and which will run 60 seconds. Both are being created by Anomaly in New York, part of MDC Partners.

“The Clydesdales will return” in both the Budweiser spots, said Brian Perkins, vice president for Budweiser. “They have become icons of the Super Bowl just as they have become icons of the brand.”

A Budweiser commercial titled “Brotherhood,” about a reunion between a Clydesdale and a trainer, was the most popular during the Super Bowl last year, according to the voters in the annual Super Bowl Ad Meter conducted by USA Today.

One Budweiser spot next month, Mr. Perkins said, titled “Puppy Love,” is to feature Clydesdales from the Warm Springs Ranch near Boonville, Mo., where the horses are trained, along with a 10-week-old dog that is up for adoption. The trainer character from last year’s spot will return, he added.

The other Budweiser commercial scheduled for Super Bowl XLVIII will be a “military-focused spot,” Mr. Perkins said, “to thank the men and women who’ve served” in the United States armed forces.

There will be an extensive campaign in digital and social media to promote the coming Super Bowl commercials, the Anheuser-Busch executives said, to take advantage of the interest among consumers in seeing part or all of the spots before the game. Social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has made it much easier for Super Bowl advertisers to do that, as well as to stimulate additional attention during and after the game.

AKQA, part of WPP, is the lead digital agency for Bud Light and Budweiser.

This is the third Super Bowl in a row for which Mr. Chibe will serve as the quarterback for Anheuser-Busch, and the last. The company sent a memo to employees and wholesalers last week saying that he would step aside after leading marketing efforts in the United States since June 2011; the AdAge.com website suggested that his departure was related to his being “under pressure to boost Bud Light’s performance.”

In the phone interview, Mr. Chibe was upbeat. “I’m like a bad penny,” he said. “I’ll turn up somewhere. Trust me on that.”

Bud Light and Budweiser are among numerous well-known, blue-chip brands that will be advertised during Super Bowl XLVIII. Others include Cheerios, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Doritos, Heinz ketchup and Volkswagen. Among the newer brands that are also buying commercials are Axe, Beats Music, Chobani and Dannon Oikos yogurts, SodaStream, Squarespace and Wonderful pistachios.