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Bud hits Super Bowl after merger, financial crisis
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK Jan 15 (Reuters) - Bud Light, traditional purveyor of some of the heartiest chuckles in Super Bowl advertising, might find the laughs harder to come by this year as the beer's parent copes with a recession and a controversial takeover.
The former Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc was typically the biggest buyer of commercial spots on the Super Bowl. This year, Anheuser-Busch InBev INTB.BR -- the company that resulted from Anheuser's 2008 takeover by InBev NV of Belgium -- will run 4-1/2 minutes' worth of advertising spread across NBC's broadcast of the National Football League's championship game on Feb. 1.
Bud Light, with its comedic bent, and Budweiser, whose commercials have a more sentimental twist, will make up the bulk of that time, which will be divided between two 60-second spots and five 30-second spots. Commercials for Bud Light Lime or American Ale are also under consideration.
Questions about the cost of Super Bowl commercials, which can run up to $3 million for 30 seconds, have only sharpened this year as the worldwide economy has deteriorated. Indeed, experts warn that consumers worried about their own jobs or homes may have little patience for companies forking over millions of dollars for flashy TV commercials.
But Anheuser-Busch executives said they believe that the 98 million U.S. viewers expected to watch this year's Super Bowl want an escape from all the depressing economic news. That means uplifting, reassuring or humorous commercials could resonate better than ever with viewers, said Bob Lachky, Anheuser-Busch's chief creative officer.
"I just don't think the consumer wants to sit there and be reminded of how the economy is," he said. "It's about entertainment, it's about escape that day."
Adding to the challenge this year, InBev's $52 billion acquisition of Anheuser-Busch raised objections from a number of politicians, consumer groups and unions unhappy about the takeover of a U.S. icon by a foreign company.
The negative publicity has proven tough to shake. Shortly after the deal closed last year, the brewer, which also makes Stella Artois and Beck's, announced plans to cut 1,400 jobs in the United States.
The takeover is one reason the company plans to run a record three commercials featuring Budweiser's Clydesdale horses, which executives believe will drive home themes of heritage, legacy and tradition.
"That's one of the things people are going to be looking for from Anheuser-Busch. It's 'Hey, what are you going to change?'" said Keith Levy, vice president of marketing. "The best thing we can do as marketers of a 133-year-old brand, in the case of Budweiser, is reassure them that the things they've grown accustomed to and love and feel are relevant still remain."
Anheuser-Busch InBev often makes a decision on exactly what commercials will air in the final days before the Super Bowl, following screen tests with consumers.
But Lachky and Levy said advertisements in the running include a Clydesdale that falls in love; another that plays fetch; and a third that traces back its bloodlines. A humorous spot featuring comedian Conan O'Brien hawking Bud Light in Sweden may also run; and a lighthearted commercial set on a ski slope that plays up the "drinkability" campaign could show up.
Nearly all of the advertisements under consideration were created by Omnicom Group's (OMC.N) DDB, which has put together most of the Budweiser and Bud Light commercials that have run in recent Super Bowls. NBC is a unit of General Electric Co. (GE.N) (Reporting by Paul Thomasch, editing by Matthew Lewis)
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