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What Bud Taught Me

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Everything I learned about integration, I learned from a bunch of good ol' boys.

It happened in 1995, before "The Internet Changed EverythingTM" and the future started "Coming at Us Faster Than Ever Before.©" Before text messaging was considered tiresome and every account person under 30 started communicating exclusively through IM. Before "viral success" was a good thing and words like mobisode, podcast, advertainment and media agnostic came into being.

Before all those things, I learned that an idea has to be bigger than the page it's written on.

Back then, the goal of most art directors and copywriters I knew was to make a funny TV commercial or a beautiful print campaign shot by Clint Clemens or Nadav Kander, if they were lucky. "Interactive" people were probably exasperated with creatives like myself, who hadn't quite grasped the unlimited potential of new media and all the technologically wonderful things we now take for granted.

But I can safely say I wasn't alone. The advertising industry at large, most consumers and certainly the award shows hadn't woken up yet, either.

My first experience in this brave new world? It came courtesy of the beer guys at Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis, Missouri.

My partner was Steve Dildarian, who is still technically a freelancer but also a veteran of 13 years at a single shop, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. We spent several weeks struggling to create something that would make relevant the tagline, "Bud runs deep." The client didn't like "Bud runs deep"; they liked their beloved, tragically monosyllabic Budweiser frogs. We hated the Budweiser frogs (they were created by another ad agency, so the idea, of course, was an awful one). Jeff Goodby kept saying, "I don't know, guys, maybe there's something in that swamp."

We didn't really like the swamp. In fact, we wanted to kill the frogs.

"Hey, yeah, that's interesting," we thought. "We should kill them."

Ding.

Enter the Budweiser lizards, Louie and Frank, and their flawed accomplice, the ferret.

As the creative team, it was our job to create, visualize, write, film and edit the campaign's dozens upon dozens of television and radio commercials. But in a weird way, that was the easy part.

Seriously. If you've ever created something that you're passionate about, one of the easiest things to do is go nuts and run with it. The hard part is to have someone who wasn't in on the genesis of the idea to believe in it and help you make it great (unless you're paying them).

Yet that is exactly what happened. Over and over again, men with names like Bob Lachkey, Mike Labroad, August Busch III and IV and their many cohorts at Anheuser-Busch pushed us further: "Please look at all the film again," someone would say. "I know we paid over $2.5 million for a 30-second commercial, but surely there must be some leftover stuff, B-roll or outtakes that you can use to create a couple more spots?"

Eventually, our in-house editor proved them correct, crafting 17 commercials out of a single 900-frame project. He also became the voice of the ferret, but that's a story for another day.

And then came the mother lode: Nascar paints; hydroplane murals; outdoor boards; T-shirts; talking beer mugs; POS videos; answering machine messages; towels and cozies; more commercials; responsible drinking; guest appearances; convention videos; inflatable furniture; neon signs; regional promotions; localized radio; winter and summer programs; the beginnings of blogs; bulletin boards and enthusiast Web sites (where people created their own bizarre lizard scripts, print ads and other "user-generated content" and uploaded them for all the world to see); more commercials; musical CDs; and holiday sweaters and foam hats were just a smattering of the Budweiser lizard ideas created and/or endorsed by these brazen Midwesterners.

They also asked us to adapt the scripts for broadcast in Ireland and England. (It was very odd hearing Louie with a British accent.)

Without us, they were brainstorming daily in that beautiful sphere of spontaneity: "What if we did this?" "What if we tried that?" "You guys ever think about ... ?" "Dude, that's funny! We have to do it."

Frankly, at first it was a little annoying (we were the creatives, damn it!), but it was soon clear they were on to something. That a concept is more than 30-seconds long and larger than 14 x 48 feet. That good ideas are liquid, wildly improvisational and determined to grow and change over time—and media.

They realized, well before many of us, that a good idea was more than a humorous television spot and a couple of print ads.

Budweiser (the king of both beers and the Super Bowl commercial) taught me that a fully integrated marketing effort, for lack of a better phrase, was a new and wonderful thing.

So let's stop giving all the credit to the people who name a new media channel, coin a post-modern term, herald the birth/death of this/that, or flap more yap about the future of technology. Let's give credit where credit is due:

To the people who aren't afraid of enthusiasm making them look foolish.

To the people who don't understand the difference between traditional and nontraditional.

To the people who make this job fun because they love ideas and recognize the ones with legs—even when the legs are green and scaly.

To those people, client side and agency side, Cheers.