After Bud Light’s bull terrier Spuds MacKenzie — dubbed “the ultimate party animal” — captured the hearts of many in a 1987 Super Bowl ad, the mighty pre-InBev Anheuser-Busch made a somewhat shocking decision to do a comedic ad for its flagship brand. This was a big deal: Up until then, Budweiser’s ads hewed to the heartland with sincere, wholesome, Americana themes and tunes.
But the firm’s longtime hometown ad agency went out on a limb and took a break from its usual ho-hum marketing route. When a few friends from DMB&B in St. Louis came up with an idea for an ad featuring animatronic frogs, August Busch III didn’t laugh them out of his office — he gave it the green light. Thus began the production process of one of Adweek’s “most iconic alcohol ads of all time,” built on the strength of three simple syllables: BUD-WEIS-ER.
Despite its light-hearted nature, the ad was a serious production with a serious budget. The special effects company behind “Jurassic Park” took care of the animatronics, and filmmaker Gore Verbinski directed it before going on to direct the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films in the early aughts. Needless to say, there was some top-tier talent working on a 30-second ad snippet about frogs and beer. Sure enough, it all paid off when the “Budweiser Frogs” made their world debut during the 1995 Super Bowl, ushering in a new era of comedic beer advertising.
Today on “Taplines,” host Dave Infante is joined by Tom Woodard, the current creative director of Nashville’s On the Avenue who, in the mid-’90s, found himself voicing Frog #1 in the beloved beer commercial. The two discuss his former career in the jingle business, how he briefly became a one-syllable celebrity, and who it was that came up with the frogs in the first place. Tune in for more.