In the scramble to take the suspense out of Super Bowl advertising by releasing commercials early on YouTube, Budweiser was a principled holdout.
Until yesterday, that is.
That’s when they released their Beck’s Sapphire commercial with the singing black goldfish.
Three hours ago, they hitched their horses – one of them, at least – to the early-release bandwagon by posting their new second-quarter :60 about the growth of a young Clydesdale pony.
An idea whose time has gone?
As we reported here January 12, the effectiveness of the Clydesdale as a marketing strategy was subject to intense internal debate.
“For years, internal debate has raged within the brewer’s marketing department about just how successful” they are, in the face of a quarter-century of declining sales and market share, Advertising Age reported.
One faction, perhaps whistling past the demographic graveyard of successively smaller-than-Boomer population cohorts, felt that the Clydesdales always worked and therefore always would.
Another side argued “that the Clydesdales ‘were more of a goodwill for our corporation but they weren’t necessarily selling the brand Budweiser,'” according to a former AB InBev marketing executive. “That philosophy was getting stronger and stronger every year when you have younger groups [of marketers] coming in and saying, I think the Clydesdales are for the older [drinker].”
Apparently unable to resolve the conflict, Budweiser opted for both approaches. The commercial they released today is a product of that compromise.
Lacking in marketing horse sense
The Clydesdale commercial validates the old marketing adage that when you aim for the middle of the road, you often end up as road kill.
It’s essentially a one-minute music video illustrating the lyrics of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” its background music. It’s also a mini-biography of one horse. And, compared to other Clydesdale commercials – most notably the post-9/11 one – it’s oddly lacking in emotion.
It starts off with a Clydesdale foal being fed, raised and trained by its owner, then at the age of three, being hauled off in a Budweiser horse trailer. After a time lapse, the trainer reads that the Clydesdales will be in a parade in Chicago and drives there to watch. At the end of the parade, the horse, unhitched, seeks him out in the crowd and they nuzzle.
Except for a call to action to tweet your suggestion for what to name the horse.
The only product reference, if you want to call it that, is a Budweiser logo mere seconds before the end.
Lacking in horse sense
Previous Budweiser commercials, even those featuring the horses, at least tied them into something good about drinking the beer.
Not this one.
It seems to assume that the mere presence of a Clydesdale on screen will be a sales magnet. It also seems to be about nothing more than collecting tweets.
But as we noted two years ago, and cited Pepsi and Burger King failures to prove it, clicks, tweets and likes don’t necessarily convert to sales.
So it may very well be that this Clydesdale commercial will be very effective in achieving Budweiser’s marketing objective – provided its objective is to rack up a 26th consecutive year of shrinking sales, revenues and market share.
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