ITV 50 Years of Fame: Private view - Budweiser

Whassup? Say it with me. Whassuuuuuuppppaaaaarrrgh. Are you sticking your tongue out? I am. While there have been ads over the past 50 years that have entered the everyday lexicon of certain groups, surely this is one of the biggest, broadest and most memorable.

To my mind, it stands at the pinnacle of some tremendous advertising by DDB for Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser over the past decade. I love it.

You can draw a straight line from "hot dog" (2), through "frogs" (6), via Lennie the lizard (5) to "whassup?" (3) and then beyond to the True campaign (4) that is still running.

From obvious gags about 12-inch wieners and jokes about the ex-boyfriend's "enormous one" to talking chameleons and frogs, all of it makes me kind of like Bud. An American company that has the confidence to take the piss out of itself; now that is something that you see in the real world just about as often as you see a talking frog.

Some of this advertising hits the right buttons and some of it just misses, but what you have to concede is that client and agency just keep on going and trying to find the next big thing. Budweiser and DDB haven't been afraid to change a winning formula and go further. Imagine being in the meeting where they decided to move on from "whassup?".

But the thing I admire most about this campaign over the longer term is the way that Anheuser-Busch has taken all of this feel-good advertising and mixed it together with the straightforward, no-nonsense, "gee, isn't my product wonderful" stuff. The 30-second, beautifully shot homage to the bottle, the condensation and the top, and the "King of Beers" tagline only work for me because the brand has earned the right to be there through the other work. And similarly, without the "King of Beers" stuff doing the hard graft, you just know that someone would have been asking for Lennie the Lizard to take a long swig of Bud. The two campaigns work perfectly together.

This is so much more of an elegant solution than trying to do straight product advertising for things, as in the case of the Bud Ice spot with the Ant Hill Mob and their underground party (1).

There is nothing wrong with this commercial - of its kind, it is lovely - but it could have been for almost any beer.

However, the evolution of Budweiser's advertising to a higher plane means that there is now an easily recognisable personality for the work that make "ants" fit only the King of Beers. But that is a retrofit.

And they really do work. I was teetotal until I was 31. These commercials - and a fat friend called Mukherjee - tempted me to the dark side. But are these ads really great?

Well, global recognition, effectiveness awards and Cannes Lions apart, I think there is a much more telling yardstick.

Mr Bill Gates has unwittingly invented a sure test for the measure of great advertising. Click on the start button on your Windows computer and up pops an icon labelled "my videos". Have a look in your own folder.

If an mpeg of a commercial has made it into this sacred space, then surely it is great.

Three Budweiser ads are currently nestling there on my hard drive.


1. BUD ICE Title: Ants Agency: DDB Year: 1998 2. BUDWEISER Title: Hot dog Agency: DDB Year: 2002 3. Budweiser Title: Whassup? Agency: DDB Year: 2000 4. BUDWEISER Title: Card Agency: DDB Year: 2002 5. BUDWEISER Title: Lizard Agency: DDB Year: 2001 6. BUDWEISER Title: Frogs Agency: DDB Year: 1997

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