Why Budweiser’s reincarnation of their classic Whassup ad works

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Why Budweiser’s reincarnation of their classic Whassup ad works

The Background

It’s nearly week six of lockdown and we’re still no closer to knowing exactly what the future holds.  

Some European nations are taking baby steps to ease lockdown, while the UK threatens the potential tightening of measures.  

Brands are largely reducing or pausing spending in order to try and keep the ship afloat while we ride this out.  

But what is definite is that every Millennial has downloaded (and deleted) Houseparty, played some form of Bingo/joined a quiz through Zoom, and we have ALL binge-watched Tiger King.

So, when Budweiser resurrected their globally famous ad (again) that was a classic from the ’90s, you couldn’t be blamed if you thought they were a little late to the party with their message

What They Did

Using the original ad footage, they re-recorded the VO to make it reflective of government advice to isolate right now.  

The pals are still lazily hanging about while on the phone for a catch-up, but instead of saying “I’m watching the game, having a bud” they say: “In quarantine, having a bud”.  

The wonderful cacophony of ‘whassups’ then builds as usual, this time ending on a call to action: buds support buds, check in on yours.  

Wonderful, Budweiser, but I feel like we have heard this advice A LOT since lockdown started and have (hopefully) all been following it?

The Review

So why do I still love it so much?  

Strangely, the ad feels like it perfectly captures the mood of what most of us are feeling right now, rather than parading as a forced attempt to shoe-horn old creative.  

The opening atmosphere generated by those two pals lying on the couch now has a completely different interpretation and effect… and it chimed loud with me.  

They’re not just chilling this time; they’re over it.  They’re emotionally drained from the rollercoaster that has been life, but they are also resigned to the fact that they need to stick it out.  We are all in this together, after all.

The second reaction hits you in the gut when they start to say ‘Whassup’ over and over again; this time its nostalgia. 

Memories of happier and simpler times when we called our friends to make plans to watch the game together at the pub.  When we called just to prank one another or leave annoying voice mails.  When we watched this scene re-enacted in Scream, the movie.

We then go back to the first pal, revisiting his original reason for calling his mate: 

“So, you OK, B?”.   We end on dungaree guy replying in what feels like a melancholic tone, “I’m good, B.  Just quarantining, having a bud.  Thanks for checking in”.  

And we’re alone on our couch again left with all these feelings.  

I think many people are struggling with the volume of content we are consuming right now - I know I am. 

Those of us working from home are constantly Zooming and emailing. Those who aren’t might be attached to their iPhones more than usual.  

Then we have family group chats, news channels and social feeds we’re keeping up with.  We’re looking for content online to inspire us with ready-made workouts and recipes and we’re streaming shows every evening.

I think what this ad perfectly demonstrates is that it doesn’t always need to be War and Peace when reaching out to someone to check-in.  

Has one of your friends been a bit quiet recently? Have you maybe not seen them participating in the group bantz as much as usual? Maybe they’re finding it all a bit overwhelming and might respond better to a gentle, “You OK, B?” without requiring them to make the effort to participate in a group virtual dance-along.

With all this in mind, I still feel like they’ve missed a trick by not finding a way to extend this campaign beyond the film.  

If you look at Heineken’s recent launch of the ‘Buy a Heineken now to drink later’ campaign, this is something they can roll with until lockdown ends and the pubs re-open.  This gives them a narrative that can keep engagement levels up with consumers for a while to come, and tell a positive story when people go and finally claim that long-awaited beer.  Never mind, I’m sure Budweiser will have something great planned for then, too.

A lovely bit of nostalgia, although much too fleeting.

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Leila Mountford

Leila Mountford

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