Bud Light Reincarnates Classic ‘Real Men’ Campaign as ‘Internet Heroes of Genius’

All hail the 'Person Who Accidentally Went Viral'

There’s the “Snapchat Lens Creator” and the “Person Still Using Their Middle School Email.” Bud Light

One of the most iconic advertising campaigns in history is back—with a big twist.

Bud Light’s “Real Men of Genius” campaign, which ran from 1998 to 2007, is finding new life today in Bud Light’s updated “Internet Heroes of Genius” campaign—one much better suited to the 2019 cultural climate.

Instead of mock-celebrating often oblivious and universally goofy male archetypes like “Mr. Really Bad Toupeé Wearer” and “Mr. Really Really Really Bad Dancer,” seven new audio ads are literally singing the praises of a relatively new class of online celebrity that didn’t quite exist yet in the days of the original ads.

There are somewhat insider picks, like the “Corporate Social Media Manager.”

“Only you have mastered the brand voice of almond milk,” says the dramatic throwback movie trailer voiceover. Answers an ’80s rock singer in the background, “Sassy, but not too mean,” echoing the same call-and-response audio stylization that helped define the “Real Men” work.

Other new executions go a little broader, like the “Video Streaming Login Sharer” (“You gave your ex the best years of your life, and access to an endless supply of obscure crime documentaries”). Others yet go deeper, like the “Person Who Sorts By New” clip (a nod to committed members of the Reddit community).

There’s the “Snapchat Lens Creator” and the “Person Still Using Their Middle School E-mail.” There’s the “Person Who Accidentally Went Viral.” There’s the “Online Encyclopedia Editor” whose information is “better than accurate—it’s free.”

In other words, the scripts are smartly written and full of the same kinds of chuckle-worthy turns that populated their forebearers.

Bud Light’s executives have been thinking about reviving the “Real Men of Genius” campaign for a while, says Conor Mason, digital director at the brand—but they were still looking for the right way to do so when agency partner Red Interactive presented them with the “Internet Heroes” idea.

“As soon as we heard the words, we were like, this is amazing—so connected with how people on the internet talk,” he says. The team zeroed in on specific ideas through a mix of brainstorming and research, creating “hypotheses played back into social listening and a little bit of back and forth,” Mason explains.

For example, the brand knew it wanted to do something around video streaming, but following online chatter helped confirm the login-sharer idea as the right direction. It also unearthed new directions, like the middle school email ad.  “We just saw all these memes floating around. We do quite a few weekly sessions where we’re looking at insights around certain platforms—what are people talking about, why are they talking about it, and how can maybe brands get involved,” says Mason.

“It was actually unconnected to Internet Heroes at the time, but once we saw that, we realized ‘Oh my gosh, this is something we should definitely build around,’” he adds. “I think it’s become personally one of my favorites.”

Bud Light is rolling out the ads strategically—tying each once into the platform whence its theme originated. (The Snapchat clip will run with a paid buy on Snapchat, naturally; the video-streaming ad will appear on sites like Hulu through programmatic buys). But it’s also including a live response element starting today, at 10am, on Twitter, with Mason in the recording booth alongside the campaign’s new singer, Brandon Beilis, where they’ll ask people to suggest internet heroes—and then sing back paeans to them in real time.

And throughout the summer, the campaign will continue on digital radio. “We’re really excited, using one of the iconic campaigns that really spoke to the fun and the humor of Bud Light,” says Mason, but “re-imagining it in a way that we think connects even stronger to the modern person.”

@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.