Anheuser-Busch, DDB agency win Super Bowl ad tussle

http://www.suntimes.com/output/lazare/lew30.html

BY LEWIS LAZARE

The votes are in, and no matter which way you slice and dice the results, Anheuser-Busch and its lead ad agency, DDB Chicago, were the big winners in the Super Bowl of advertising Sunday night.

AB was credited with five of the Top Ten Super Bowl ads, as ranked by USA Today’s much-hyped ad meter. About the only thing more surprising than that phenomenal showing was the lower-than-anticipated ranking for AB’s biggest splash of the night–the elaborate and expensive E.T.-inspired “Come Home” spot. Wall Street Journal marketing writer Suzanne Vranica raved about the special-effects-laden commercial, but ad meter voters placed “Come Home” only 10th on their list, below other simpler, but equally funny Bud Light commercials.

There were plenty of other advertisers who spent big bucks on the Super Bowl and came away disappointed. Count Pepsi among them. Though its limp Bob Dole spot scored better than most, many observers seemed to agree Pepsi didn’t deliver any breakthrough work.

Everyone wanted to like EDS’ “Running With the Squirrels,” the sequel to last year’s herding-cats commercial, but it failed to ignite much of a response from some viewers.

Accenture spots looked slick, but the obscure message seemed to sail right over the heads of some viewers. “Accenture needs a consultant,” cracked advertising professor Steve Edwards in the WSJ.

Perhaps the evening’s major disappointment was Volkswagen, which is held to a high standard among automotive advertisers. The car company’s big idea spot, a car falling out of a tree, must have looked good on paper. But the commercial landed with a loud thud in next-to-last place in the ad meter rankings.

The real top dog: DDB Chicago group creative director John Immesoete is the star of the moment in the advertising world. He was in charge of creating three of the top five commercials in USA Today’s ad meter rating.

All of Immesoete’s top-ranked spots were for Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light: “Cedric/Date” was the most popular, while “Chow Down” with Otto the dog ranked fourth and “Pencil Pusher” came in fifth.

Modest to a fault, Immesoete is surprised his spots scored as well as they did. But the veteran ad exec, who came to DDB from Leo Burnett Co. six years ago, believes the top-ranked spot featuring Cedric the entertainer clicked with viewers for a reason. “It seemed to hit on a truth that a lot of people can relate to.”

Cedric, who appeared in the film “Kings of Comedy” and is well known as a stand-up comedian, was recommended to DDB by Anheuser-Busch executives. Immesoete and his team came up with about six possible scenarios for Cedric commercials, and AB execs selected the date-gone-awry howler for the Super Bowl.

Immesoete said fans of Cedric will have a chance to see him in more commercials as AB looks to capitalize on its new star’s popularity.

As for the rest of the ad competition on the Super Bowl, it was a mixed bag from Immesoete’s vantage.

He didn’t care for the Volkswagen spot where the car fell out of a tree. “Too quiet and too long for the Super Bowl,” he said. Though he liked the Bob Dole Pepsi commercial, Immesoete’s not sure Dole fits the soda pop’s target audience. “They usually go more youth-oriented,” he said.

Contact advertising/marketing columnist Lewis Lazare at [email protected].