Barbara Lippert’s Critique: Lounge Lizards

Louie fights a turf war for Budweiser
There Louie sits, surveying the landscape, ever jealous and competitive, always worried that someone else has what is rightfully his. His buddy, Frank, listens patiently and tries to talk sense into him in vain.
A bleak picture, this pair of sad sacks who speak with Soprano-like diction and cadences. Nasty, cold-blooded, they never change. But because Louie and Frank also happen to be lizards, they are hilarious.
It’s the parallel universe model of comedy–a boorish, self-absorbed, cutthroat in-the-know Mr. Showbiz guy emoting from the bottom of a swamp. It’s breakthrough, nothing short of brilliant. That pairing of acute verbal bitterness with a reptilian eye swivel, or matching the stream of blatant self-pity with the flick of a sticky-tipped tongue never fails to be funny. It just kills me.
Aside from their voices, these lizards are at least recognizable. In Disney’s Dinosaur, by contrast, we learn that a certain single mother allosaurus is female because she has cheekbones. This is scary, and not for our lizard boys. No lame anthropomorphic touches, no backward baseball caps, no sunglasses touch their spiny and scaly-skinned bodies. These two are true tree-hugging chameleon and inguana respectively, from their scaly heads to their pincer-like toes.
In the two most recent lizard spots, Budweiser lets Louie be Louie. You’ll remember that Louie was first seen murderously fixating on the “Bud-wie-ser” frogs. They sat on rocks on the other side of the swamp and were so popular and universally beloved, they were advertising’s best known triumvirate at the time.
Louie just couldn’t fathom how those pathetic frogs, who could only croak monosyllables, had the gig, when he was clearly more deserving.
Completely eaten up with jealousy, he hired a hit man, a ferret, to bump off the frogs. Though the frogs fried, they lived. But as Budweiser ad symbols, the trio got canned. The ferret, who speaks unintelligibly but has “a good look,” according to Frank, like a “little European film star,” also had a brief run. He, too, is gone. Oddly, Louie survives. He is the king now. But is he happy? Is that a question?
Somewhere, in another part of the Budweiser empire, a unique, attention-getting Bud Light campaign is receiving praise. This is something Louie can’t abide.
“C’mon Frank, just say it,” he says, as he pesters poor Frank. “No, say it, Frank. Everybody’s saying it. Come on. Just once.” His buddy buckles under such pressure and emits a tone-deaf, culturally clueless, yet annoyingly loud and mournful, “Whassup.”
Louie isn’t moved, responding, “Oh, that was horrible. You stink. That’s whassup.”
The second spot also opens with Louie and Frank in their tree positions. It begins with standard Louie: “I’m not happy, Frank,” he says. “They stole my tongue thing.” “What tongue thing?” Franks asks. “I don’t think you have a case, Louie.”
Then we get a split-screen comparison of Louie’s darting tongue next to the Whassup’s guy’s tongue as he talks obsessively into his phone. The word “coincidence?” appears on the bottom of the screen. Louie has made his case. “Frank, I have a patent on this tongue,” the king says.
Like Louie, the campaign is completely self-reflexive and can circle this media loop forever. Nothing is sacred as long as it’s taking the spotlight away from Louie. The campaign even makes fun of the advertising that talks about the Busch family heritage and “the brewing process.”
“How’s that supposed to sell beer?” a lizard asks at the end of one spot. At a time when beer makers can’t say much, and the male image is in crisis mode, what better way to reach the average Bud drinker than through a self-deceiving, ambition-addled, ever-complaining, paranoid lizard?
It’s not personal, it’s business. K

Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Creative Directors: Jeff Goodby, Rich Silverstein
Copywriter: Steve Dildarian
Art Director: Todd Grant
Agency Producer: Cindy Epps
Director: Tom Routson/Tool of North Americ