Cedric Is `Whassup' In New Super Bowl Ads


By Jim Kirk

Tribune Marketing Columnist

Look out “Whassup” guys–Cedric is on the way.

In what may be the first clue of a switch in marketing strategy, St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch is indicating that its popular “Whassup” advertising campaign–which sparked a media frenzy last year and gave its flagship Budweiser brand some much-needed buzz–may be close to winding down.

In fact, Anheuser-Busch and its ad agency, DDB Chicago, already are putting their focus elsewhere.

A-B is banking on a new commercial for its booming Bud Light brand, slated to launch during the Super Bowl on Jan. 28, to generate another round of hype, which has become a hallmark of A-B’s marketing in recent years, with the perennial Bud Bowl and animated amphibians.

Anheuser-Busch executives are mum on all the details of their plan for CBS’ telecast of the Super Bowl, where it will be the heaviest advertiser. But executives indicated that one spot features an affable, heavy-set, dancing man named Cedric, who they hope will spark a new round of bar conversation in the way that “Whassup” entered the vernacular around the country.

“It’s quite possibly the funniest spot we’ve done,” Bob Lachky, vice president of brand management at Anheuser-Busch, said of the DDB Chicago-produced “Cedric” commercial, which also will be the main Bud Light thrust during telecasts of the new football league, the XFL.

The shift in strategy comes as A-B executives consider the future of the award-winning “Whassup” campaign.

While it has attracted a great deal of attention, just how it has translated into beer sales is unclear. Although Anheuser-Busch contends the campaign has helped the No. 1 brewer–which saw beer shipments increase 2.5 percent last year in a flat market, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights–determining the campaign’s role is difficult.

The campaign, showing four friends who greet each other with the now-famous “Whassup” line, was the Super Bowl darling last year.

Lachky said new “Whassup” ads are ready for Super Bowl this year, but it has not yet been determined if any will air during the game itself, or just during the pregame or postgame telecasts.

“`Whassup’ is … not quite as new as it was,” Lachky said. “If it’s not in the telecast, it doesn’t mean it’s dead.”

In the interview, however, Lachky indicated that “Whassup” may not have a shelf life longer than six months. But by then, Cedric may be getting all the attention.

Both Anheuser-Busch and DDB remain committed to a strategy of developing campaigns that strive for media buzz, even if it means that the advertising doesn’t always directly relate to the quality of the beer.

“We try to do that with everything we do. We look for `talk value,”‘ said Bob Scarpelli, DDB’s top creative executive and longtime overseer of Bud’s advertising.

“Bud Light has been consistently good, but it has not had the talk value since the `I Love You Man’ campaign. Cedric may catch on.”