Puppies Don’t Sell Beer


It’s the Monday after Super Bowl XLVIII, 2014. Aside from Denver’s humiliating loss, what is everybody is talking and tweeting about? The winner of the “Commercial” Bowl: Budweiser. It ran a spot featuring a puppy and a horse in an improbable lovefest. America swooned.

Newsflash: this spot won’t sell one bottle of beer. Anheuser-Busch/Inbev paid $8 million per minute for the airtime, plus conception and production costs. What a waste of money.

Means to an End

This “Puppy Love” commercial is redolent of Coca-Cola’s iconic Mean Joe Greene ad from 1979. Everybody loved it, too. It made people cry. It won awards. According to Sergio Zyman, Coca-Cola’s chief marketing officer at the time, though, this commercial didn’t sell one bottle of Coke — so he pulled it. That’s right: it failed. Pundits were shocked.

Advertising is not entertainment. A commercial is a means to an end, not an end, not the object of awards. A commercial is a branding platform; it has one job: persuade target customers to buy the product.

Evidence abounds that Super Bowl advertising doesn’t sell products, but top companies — pushed by their CEOs — continue illogically throwing wasted cash at it.
How’s That Working Out?

Budweiser has won the coveted “best commercial” slot for 12 of the last 14 Super Bowls. So what? How’s that working out?

Between 2007 and 2012, Budweiser sales were down 28.8%. Beer sales, in general, were down 2.8%. Awards and accolades notwithstanding, Super Bowl advertising doesn’t sell.

Think of a radio or TV commercial as your best salesrep.

Would you send your best salesrep to a customer site to do a song-and-dance, drama, or comedy routine — then walk away? Doubtful. That’s your Super Bowl commercial. Would you send your best salesrep into a loud, crowded party to try to get an order? Doubly doubtful. That’s your Super Bowl commercial. Would you give your best salesrep an award for making customers cry but not getting them to buy? That’s your Super Bowl commercial.
Shareholders, Beware!

If Super Bowl advertising doesn’t sell, why do CEOs keep authorizing it? Why do boards of directors keep looking the other way, despite knowing this?

They all like to win awards (they’re supposed to like winning customer orders). They like puppies — even though puppies don’t sell beer. Branding blunder. Shareholders, beware!


POSTSCRIPT #1: Budweiser Ditching the Clydesdales to Attract Millennials (11.23.14)

POSTSCRIPT #2: NBC Says 95% of Super Bowl Ads Sold at $4.5M/Half-Minute (01.07.15)

POSTSCRIPT #3: Candidates for “Best” Commercial of Super Bowl 50 (02.08.16)


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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