Bud Light plays musical chairs with music 'stars'

In the beginning, there were tracks from Kanye West and Avicii. And Stevie Wonder as a New Orleans voodoo man.

Jay-Z out, Justin in
Jay-Z out, Justin in

Last year, there was hip-hopper Jay-Z.

But that was so…last year.

Tonight, during the Grammy Awards on CBS, Bud Light unveils its latest musical flavor of the month – Justin Timberlake in a 60-second commercial for their new imitation craft beer, Bud Light Platinum.

This is a heavier light beer. Regular Bud Light is 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, Budweiser 5 percent, and Bud Light Platinum a full 6 percent, making this “Light” beer “heavier” than regular Budweiser.

The advertising budget’s pretty heavy, too, with parent company AB InBev having spent $32.1 million in measured media on the brand last year, according to Kantar Media, and upping the ante this year. As the second year of the brand’s existence, it’s more critical than the first, because, as Advertising Age says, it’s when “the newness buzz fades and marketers rely more on repeat purchases.”

So Bud Light is pouring big bucks into replacing Jay-Z with Timberlake as “creative and musical curator for the brand,” whatever that means.

When you have nothing to say, say it with music

For at least the past two years, AB InBev has been trying to reverse a consecutive quarter-century of slumping sales with music in and of itself as a marketing strategy.

Platinum Light is supposed to be a beer for nighttime partying. But instead of saying anything about beer or drinking or partying, the brand’s Twitter feed “routinely links to style and music news, such as a recent tweet alerting fans to a remix of a Ludacris song.”

Audience mismatch?

As we’ve noted before, beer is one of those products whose consumption follows a Pareto distribution; a small cohort of consumers – in beer’s case, 20something males – consumes a disproportionately large share of the product and forms brand preferences that will last the rest of their adult lives.

So if your key target audience is 20something men, who could be a more appropriate celebrity spokesman to reach them than…a boy-band (NSync) heartthrob whose fan base was teenage girls?

Who’s promoting whom here?

Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch VP-US marketing, thinks that “Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry, and his insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum’s identity in the lifestyle space” or something.

But if the first commercial’s any guide, the identity Bud Light Platinum’s tens of millions will be helping to define in the lifestyle space, whatever that is, will be Justin Timberlake’s.

It just so happens that Timberlake just released “Suit and Tie,” the first single from his new album “The 20/20 Experience.”

And wouldn’t you know it, Timberlake’s first Bud Light Platinum commercial will be all about…”Suit and Tie,” the first single from his new album “The 20/20 Experience.”

Talk about your crazy coincidences.

‘Strategy’ by association?

Another coincidence is how many of Budweiser’s musical celebrity spokesmen happen to be buddies of former record-company executive Steve Stoute, now CEO of Bud Light advertising agency Translation.

For example, the star of last year’s $32.1 million Bud Light campaign was none other than Jay-Z, who just happens to be a part-owner of, and major investor in, Stoute’s agency. (And you can bet he wasn’t working just for scale.)

Now, you can make a case that advertising agencies are really in the entertainment business. Stoute has, to clients including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and now Bud Light. And it’s true that commercials need to have a certain amount of interest or entertainment value if you want people to watch them.

But Budweiser’s in the beer business. Will sinking millions into promoting Justin Timberlake’s latest single entertain anyone into drinking more of their beer? Or will it give them nothing more than their 26th consecutive year of lower sales and smaller market share to loom forward to?

Read more about making your advertising more effective at www.BrightOrangeAdv.com/how-to-stand-out

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