Keith Levy, vp of marketing at Anheuser-Busch InBev, describes Budweiser’s new “Grab some Buds” campaign from Anomaly as a “beginning of a journey. We’re not looking for the brand to turn around tomorrow. We are looking to begin that stabilization process and this is part of that.” The first work from the brewer’s newest roster shop features TV spots as well as radio, outdoor and print ads. In addition, the client will distribute some 500,000 free samples in the next two weeks, with the primary goal of winning over 21- to 27-year-olds who have never tried the brand. Levy, who assumed his role as head of U.S marketing in 2008, discussed the campaign with senior reporter Andrew McMains.
ADWEEK: What did your research tell you about this approach?
Keith Levy: One thing we found out from this campaign, which is called “Anticipation,” is that it endears itself to what we call our Budweiser loyalists but also it gives cause for younger consumers to give it a different look. . . . It’s all around the moment of anticipation. If you think about anticipation, it’s one of those things that — young or old — you look forward to what will come next . . . Whether it’s people that are going out just to enjoy a backyard barbeque or if you’re going out on a first date, it’s anticipation of what that day or that evening could bring. That’s what we’re trying to really convey with the imagery. If you think about the tagline — “Grab some Buds” — it talks about grabbing your friends and grabbing a beer as part of that good time. So, we like the way that came together.
How would you describe the work stylistically?
It’s very visual. . . A lot of the Budweiser work, even if you go back over the years, has been fairly copy intensive. There’s not one spoken word in the campaign. So, what you’re going to have is a lot of beautiful visuals, camera angles and great music, which sort of builds as the spot builds in that feeling of anticipation and pays off with a fairly big crescendo. Again, [it’s this feeling of this culmination of a great day or a great night [that’s] about to happen because your friends and Budweiser surround you.
Compared to last year’s “It’s what we do” campaign, from DDB, are you trying to shift to a more emotional space?
Yeah, very emotional, very emotional. It’s a little different than what people are used to in terms of traditional beer advertising. You’re a brand that stood the test of time, you’re iconic, some might say, but you want people to look at it in a different light. I think this does exactly that, which is what we’re counting on. And we’re counting on it to appeal to people on a different level.
How and when did you first connect with Anomaly?
As we were going through the summer time, we were looking at a lot of different work for Budweiser, as is past practice with a lot of our brands, we do invite other agencies in to pitch. Anomaly was one those agencies this time and came forward with some really great insight about the brand.
Did you or colleagues know Anomaly from another context? I’m curious what led them to your door.
We’ve been familiar with Anomaly and have been looking at lots of different agencies over time. We’ve had both internal people at A-B, as well as global, that are familiar with Anomaly and decided to give them an opportunity to pitch.
Do you see this as a project for the shop or is Anomaly every bit of a roster shop as DDB?
Right now, it’s relatively new in the relationship. The work is extremely good and we’re hoping we can build off that.
What’s the life span for this campaign?
This work will run throughout 2010. . . . We’re working on Super Bowl cuts now and working on planning for 2011 work. And as long they continue to reach to it in the way in which they have so far . . . it’s something that we can begin to build off as a platform.
Are there any new wrinkles in your TV buying patterns?
We continue to buy heavy sports and we will be heavy sports throughout the fall, obviously with Budweiser’s association with Major League Baseball. We have bought a little bit more entertainment cable this summer, we have bought some more digital media and we’ve done the things that many marketers have done as the market has moved a bit.
How does the free sampling work into the fabric of your campaign?
What we know about Budweiser is that in blind taste tests, the brand does extremely well. There are a lot of people who haven’t tried Budweiser as well. About a third of the young population — 21 to 27 — has never had a Budweiser. They’re not opposed to it, they’re not unaware of it, but they haven’t considered it for one reason or another. . . . So, we’re going to get out there and sample — about 250,000 consumers between the beginning of next week and the end of this week. And we hope to sample another 250,000 consumers by the middle of the month. We’re very excited about doing that and it’s fun as well for the retailers. It’s a salute to the foundation of our business — the people who make it possible: the bartenders, the wait staff, the proprietors, those folks that are out there. So, as we get out there — we meaning our executives, our frontline sales people, our wholesalers — it’s our opportunity to unite these restaurants and bars around the U.S.
Do you have any concerns about free sampling devaluing the brand long term or making it seem cheaper?
Well, sampling has been a part of our business for a long time. That is nothing new. If you think about it, if anybody has bought you a beer in a bar, it’s a nice gesture, it’s something that makes you feel good. And so, that’s part of what we’re trying to do as well.
When you set off to develop this campaign, what were the issues or problems you were trying to solve?
One was what we’ve calling reappraisal, having people give Budweiser another look. Secondly, that emotional connection around those great moments that we all look forward to and Budweiser being a centerpiece of that. And just having people say, “Boy, that’s different as well.” That’s why no copy, no words, different music, different visuals and really feeling like this is a brand that is defining itself again.
Are you trying to get back to some of the talk value and pop culture influence that the late 1990s early 2000s’ “Wassup” campaign had?
“Wassup” was a very unique piece of advertising, it became part of pop culture, it was humorous and it created a word that was part of the vernacular, part of the fun. I think what it didn’t do is persuade people to buy more Budweiser. Hey, I’m all about advertising that’s talked about, that taps into pop culture, that does some things that “Wassup” did. But I’m more about advertising that sells beer. So, what we have to do is have advertising that does both.
At the end of the day, it’s art and commerce, right?
You took the words right out of my mouth. I love awards just like the next guy, but awards should be outputs of reaching strategic goals for brands with advertising that catches people by surprise or is different or groundbreaking. Certainly, “Wassup” was that. I’m not trying to diminish the quality of the work. The awards speak for themselves. But again, it’s trying to do a little bit of both. It’s art and science and at the end of the day, results.