Thoughts On Advertising: Of Frogs And Legs

| By Randy Jones

Occasionally we like to get philosophical here at Reuben Rink. This is one of a series of posts we label Thoughts on Advertising that address our, well, thoughts on advertising. In this post we look at an iconic ad campaign from the 1990s. In future posts we’ll look at other aspects of our industry, including some contemporary ad campaigns and marketing techniques.

I consider the Budweiser Frogs TV ad, introduced in the 1995 Super Bowl, to be the best single TV ad of all time. If you’re not familiar with it, here it is:

Why do I consider it the best TV ad ever? Three reasons:

  1. It’s intriguing – When it starts out, you’re not sure what’s happening, so you keep watching. In the era of channel surfing (which was just as prevalent in 1995 as it is today), it’s very easy to lose someone in the first few seconds of your commercial.
  2. It makes sense – Once you figure out what’s happening (the frogs are saying “Bud-wei-ser”), it becomes funny, and the final payoff (realizing that the frogs are looking at a Budweiser sign) makes it even funnier.
  3. It’s memorable on every level – You remember the frogs because they’re entertaining, but more importantly you remember “Budweiser.” How could you not? “Budweiser” is the only thing that’s said in the entire commercial. If you remember what’s entertaining about a commercial but not the brand being advertised, that commercial is a failure. The Budweiser Frogs ad works as both entertainment and advertising.

budweiser frog advertising campaignI’m not alone in my assessment of its greatness, by the way. Go to Google and type in “best ads ever” or “best Super Bowl ads” and the Budweiser Frogs commercial will be on almost any list you find. It was also highly honored when it came out, winning several Clio Awards and a Silver Lion Award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. The Budweiser Frogs even have their own Wikipedia entry.

But in one very important way, it was also a failure. As brilliant as it was as a stand-alone commercial, it didn’t really work as a long-term campaign. It had no “legs.” Oh, they tried to make it a campaign – they produced other commercials with the frogs, they had print ads with the frogs and so on. Having frogs that only said “Bud-wei-ser” was a handicap, so they introduced two talking lizards and created a conflict between the frogs and lizards that played out over 20+ commercials. (You can see the whole saga here.) Between the frogs and the lizards, the campaign ran for over five years, which many would consider a success. But compare that to the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials, which have been a Super Bowl staple for over 30 years. Ultimately, the only thing anyone remembers about the Budweiser Frogs these days is the original commercial. The campaign itself is largely forgotten.

So which do you think is more important – a single great idea, or an idea that has legs and can become a memorable, long-running campaign? I think the answer is both, depending on the circumstances. Ideally, a campaign is preferable, in that it allows you to build your brand in a way that becomes more and more recognizable to the public. We’ve done campaigns for Southern Community Bank and Forsyth Tech that fall into this category, each running for several years. But I also think a great idea, even if it’s just good for a one-shot TV commercial or print ad or radio spot or whatever, should not be dismissed because it can’t become a campaign or doesn’t fit into a campaign that’s already underway. I say if the idea is good enough, go ahead and use it. What do you say?

If you’re looking for original thinking and good ideas, Reuben Rink has them. Contact us today to explore how we can help your business grow!


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