How Bud Light and Wieden+Kennedy Crafted a Collaborative Partnership

They’ve created a number of memorable campaigns over the past 5 years

Screenshot from Zoom panel
Adweek's Doug Zanger spoke with Wieden+Kennedy New York managing director Neal Arthur and Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. chief marketing officer Marcel Marcondes. Adweek
Headshot of Minda Smiley

Since winning Bud Light’s creative business five years ago, Wieden+Kennedy New York has created a number of memorable campaigns for the beer brand. The independent agency famously introduced “Dilly Dilly” into America’s lexicon, and also pulled off an elaborate Super Bowl commercial in partnership with HBO’s Game of Thrones last year.

During Adweek’s Breaking the Mold: Creating Long-Term Success for Independent Agencies Live Virtual Summit on Sept. 1, Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. chief marketing officer Marcel Marcondes and Wieden+Kennedy New York managing director Neal Arthur discussed the collaborative nature of their relationship and how they’ve worked through the challenges of the pandemic.

Partner vs. vendor

Marcondes said he views Wieden+Kennedy as a partner, not a vendor. He elaborated by explaining that the agency does much more than simply field briefs.    

“I share with [Arthur] what’s going on in the business and then we talk about that together” before determining a course of action, he said. “That’s the fundamental difference.”

Arthur agreed that demonstrating partnership “at every level,” not just when it comes to briefs, has been key for the agency.

“We had a moment early on in our relationship where [Marcondes] exposed me to the heart of his world. We went to a board meeting in Miami that was absolutely terrifying,” Arthur said. “It was one of those meetings where we walked in feeling like we were set up to lose, and boy, did we. We got crushed.”

Arthur said this helped him empathize with the business challenges that Marcondes faces in his role and better understand how the agency can help.

“Since then, I’ve had a sense of accountability,” he said. “If I’m letting him down, we’re losing together. And we know what that looks and feels like.”

Scrapping plans

During the discussion, Arthur explained how Wieden+Kennedy helped Bud Light shift gears when the pandemic began to take hold throughout the U.S. in March. The brand’s plans for the year had been established a month prior and were essentially locked in, according to Arthur.

“We just decided to blow all those up and respond to the situation,” he said. “It was really important to lean into it and to assume that this was the new normal from the jump, because if you didn’t, you kind of missed the ability to react what was going on in the real world.”

Marcondes said the agency was able to “come up with plans that did not exist weeks before this whole thing happened.” In late March, Wieden+Kennedy debuted a spot for Bud Light titled “We’ll Meet Again” that featured footage of empty stadiums.

You can view the conversation in full below.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.