The Trade Desk

Day 26 - Cannes winners remembered - Budweiser "Whassup"

As the millennium approached, there was one word on the lips of those in the US: "whassup?"

On 20 December 1999, during ESPN’s Monday Night Football, a 60 second TV ad for Budweiser, launched.

The initial spot featured a group of friends greeting each other with "whassup". It was delivered in a comic, over the top way – mouths open, tongues out. Once the greeting had been reciprocated, the answer comes that they are doing, "nothing. Watching the game, having a Bud."

The spot made quite an impact. Almost overnight, "whassup" became the hottest catchphrase in the US, and was one of the first campaigns to spread virally, becoming a global cultural phenomenon.

In the UK, the phrase was already known before the ad was ever shown on TV – that didn’t occur until September 2000. The phrase was known in countries where Budweiser wasn’t even sold.

Parodies were made of the campaign, including in the Hollywood film Scary Movie, on Saturday Night Live and in both the UK and US version of the TV series The Office.

"Whassup" featured as a headline on the cover of Forbes, and was used by DJs and talk show hosts around the world, securing editorial coverage alongside the initial media spend.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign took the coveted Grand Prix award in the film category at the 2000 Cannes Lions festival.

The idea was based on a short film called "True" that had been made by Charles Stone III, a director at Storm Films in New York, in 1998.

For years, Stone had used the "whassup" greeting with his friends and he filmed his friends sitting in an apartment exchanging the phrase.

DDB Chicago saw the film (which was being shown at film festivals), presented the idea to Budweiser and collaborated with Stone to adapt the concept for the ad. The spots were art directed by Chuck Taylor and Justin Reardon, and copywriter was Vinny Warren alongside Stone, who also directed the ads. Although Stone saw 80 different people in casting for the ad, he decided to feature his friends instead.

There were several different executions of the idea. One included one of the friends in a restaurant with his girlfriend when he gets over-excited at the similarity of the word "wasabi" and "whassup".

Another, which the company chose to show in the Super Bowl, shows one of the characters sitting next to his girlfriend on the sofa watching figure skating, when his friends call from the bar. The man awkwardly tries to greet them with "whassup", while not embarrassing himself in front of his girlfriend or letting on to tem that he is not really watching the game.

As well as the widespread critical acclaim, the "whassup" campaign was critical for Budweiser, because, alongside improving sales, it helped attracted a younger audience to the brand.

The campaign has also endured. In 2008, Stone made another version of the ad with the same cast, which endorsed Barack Obama as US president.  While in February this year, James Cordon showed a parody of the ad on his US talk show.


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