Anheuser-Busch this week will start apologizing for decisions it's made since buying Rolling Rock from InBev USA in May. But it won't be apologizing for what some brand loyalists saw as the beginning of the end for Rolling Rock, when America's largest brewery bought the product line and moved production out of its longtime Latrobe, Pa., home to New Jersey. A-B will be saying it's sorry for advertising it never aired.
A broadcast, radio and Web campaign created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco will relaunch the brand with a fictional battle between Rolling Rock's new owners and its core fan base over its fabricated marketing and advertising decisions. The campaign, which includes two Web sites, is centered on consumer complaints about ads that don't exist and never aired, sources said.
Ads will star a fictional bumbling A-B marketing executive apologizing for the ads and marketing decisions he's made. And consumers will have the opportunity to search the Web for pieces of the story—all the massive marketing mistakes the character makes and the offensive material—and pass them around virally, sources said. "His ads are way over the top," described one source. Two Web sites will offer the perspective from both the brand loyalists and the fictional marketing executive.
In reality, Rolling Rock's fans have questioned on blogs and beer sites whether the new owners can maintain the brand heritage and craftsmanship—long pledged on its label as being "from the glass-lined tanks of old Latrobe."
A-B bought the global brand rights and recipes for the Rolling Rock product line last May for $82 million. Latrobe Brewing was not included in the sale.
Goodby executives declined comment and referred calls to Anheuser-Busch. A client rep confirmed only that an advertising campaign would break in the coming weeks.
Last year, InBev USA spent an estimated $4.5 million in media for Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.