Monday, September 12, 2011

Ever have an idea worth $276 million?

     The front page headline in Advertising Age tries to make light of it: "A-B Inbev Seeks Mad Men of Genius for Bud Light". Advertising agencies across the country are taking it seriously.

      The company is looking at its present agencies and some outside its roster for ideas for its best-selling brand. The account is currently at DDB in Chicago, where it spent $276 million last year, the biggest spender in the beer business. DDB must be shaking.

       Why is this huge brand looking for a new agency right now? Isn't its current "Here we go!" campaign doing the trick?

        The whole beer business is worried. Sales are off for brand after brand, including Heineken and Guiness. These days, clients don't change agencies for better commercials. They change agencies for better ideas. Concepts. Mind-changing, attitude-changing approaches. As they say in advertising, a good idea doesn't care where it comes from.

        I believe advertising has taken its eye off the ball for years. It's become a race into new media, with experts sprouting up by the hundreds. It's certainly fun to work in new media, though; a different set of problems to solve and different things to do at the office. But there's little proof that social media, for instance, can sell things like television can, where non-ideas like "Here we go!" come and go.

        In New York, Schaeffer beer had a big idea: "The one beer to have when you're having more than one". Good news for the 20% of the beer drinkers who drink 80% of the beer.

        Another big beer idea belongs to Utica Club, in upper New York state: "We're 50 years behind the times, and proud of it". That's the same beer that says "We drink all we can, the rest we sell". An idea on top of an idea.

        When Miller Lite first came out, it had an idea that enabled it to succeed where other "diet" beers had failed. Miller's idea wasn't about calories, it was "it doesn't fill you up". More room for more beer; the heavy users applauded.

         The Harris poll regularly asks advertisers what they want from their ad agencies, and the answer is always "more ideas". Maybe now, with $276 million at stake, the agencies will listen.

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