It’s so crazy, it just might work. After two years of turning their key brand’s advertising over to the likes of Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, and former recording executive Steve Stoute’s
agency Translation, parent company A-B InBev is returning to advertising agency BBDO, Advertising Age reported June 19.
BBDO’s Chicago office will be the lead agency for Bud Light, the brewer’s biggest brand, while Translation will continue to work on Bud Light’s pseudo-craftsy extensions. “Translation will focus on the extensions, where they have done extremely well,” said VP-marketing Paul Chibe, “and BBDO will focus on the base business.”
Coincident with Translation’s turning Bud Light Platinum’s advertising over to “creative director and musical curator” Justin Timberlake, the extension brand’s sales dropped 36 percent during four weeks in April. If that’s doing “exteremely well,” what’s Chibe’s idea of doing poorly?
Of course, that wasn’t the advertising’s fault. At the time, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito blamed their brands’ volume and share declines on everything from a cold winter to higher payroll taxes and delayed income-tax refunds to high (but actually dropping) gasoline prices.
Now Chibe has another, more recent, excuse. While “our extensions continue to perform extremely well [see above], there’s some natural cannibalization from the base coming from these,” he explained.
During the two years that Translation’s been doing its music-based advertising, Bud Light has suffered from more than just “natural cannibalization.”
While Bud Light line extensions such as higher-alcohol Platinum, and fruity Bud Light Lime-A-Rita and Straw-Ber-Rita have had some success, core Bud Light has lagged. In 2012, Bud Light shipment volumes fell by 0.5% — the fourth straight year of declines — while the brand’s market share has dropped from 19% in 2010 to 18.6% as of the end of last year, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights. (The next closest brand, Coors Light, remains far behind at 8.7%, but it has gained share in each of the past three years.) For the 52 weeks ending May 19, Bud Light case volume sales were down by 0.56%, compared with category-wide growth of 0.64% according to IRI, whose figures to not include bar and restaurant sales.
Of course, other big beer brands have suffered as well, including Miller Lite, which was down 1.2% in the same period, while Budweiser fell by 5.7%, according to IRI.
Correlation isn’t causation, but still…
Chibe says that BBDO will add “additional horsepower [that] would help our business.”
Help is one thing Bud Light definitely needs, and though past results are no guarantee of future performance, the advertising professionals at BBDO are certainly qualified to provide it. Until their firing in 2011, they’d been Budweiser’s agency for three decades, handling Bud Light’s launch in 1981 and creating a string of iconic Super Bowl commercials, including the talking frogs and the “anything else is just a light” campaign.
They also create the brand’s international advertising.
Meanwhile, more cowbell
Advertising takes months to create and produce, especially with clients who, like Budweiser, rely on extensive ad testing. So for the coming months, all the way throughn the NFL season, the Bud Light core brand’s advertising will still come from Translation.
And, if this summer television spot that’s all about a promotion for the beer’s 50-state concert, with the product itself being an incidental prop, is any guide, it’s going to continue to be music, music, music.
So for the rest of the year, having put themselves into a hole, Bud Light will try to get out by digging.
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