Medill prof. previews Budweiser Super Bowl ads

    A game of rock-paper-scissors ends in violence. Face slapping becomes the new “fist bump” (which used to be the new high-five). Astronauts pour beer in zero gravity.

    These are some of the images Super Bowl watchers will see during commercial breaks on Sunday. Medill associate professor John Greening, of the Integerated Marketing Communications program, screened five of Anheuser-Busch’s Super Bowl ads at the McCormick Tribune Forum today. The former executive vice president of DDB Chicago, the company that produced the ads, spoke about the business of creating commercials for an event that may be watched by billions of people around the world.

    “The issue today isn’t being able to reach people,” Greening said. “It’s being able to get their attention.”

    Anheuser-Busch’s ad campaigns in recent years have had two relatively simple messages to communicate: people will go to great lengths get the taste of Budweiser beer, and Anheuser-Busch is an “important” brand.

    “We didn’t have too much to say about the products,” said Greening, who was not involved with the 2007 ads but had worked on past Super Bowl campaigns. “So we did 30-second sitcoms.”

    The audience at the showing responded out loud a number of times. A montage of sports players, corporate executives, bridesmaids and cooks slapping each other in the face brought out laughs, as did a scene with a man picking up an axe-carrying hitchhiker who was holding a case of Bud Lite.

    Only three of the five ads shown will actually play during the Super Bowl. One, inspired by a past commercial showing Clydesdale horses playing football, will run during the pre-game show. Another, which features a down-on-its-luck dog, was cut from the final slate of ads because it didn’t emphasize the beer enough. Some audience members disagreed with that decision, since, in the words of one watcher, it was “so cute.”

    Greening said that planning for Super Bowl ads starts in June of the year before, and that many more spots get made than actually get used. Yet the rules of making Super Bowl commercials are somewhat different from making regular commercials.

    “Everyone throws their marketing textbooks out the window,” he said. “The measure of the Super Bowl [ad] is that you get a feeling from it.”


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