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Budweiser 9/11 ad updates NYC skyline

On Sunday, Budweiser dusted off its famous clydesdale tribute commercial from the 2002 Super Bowl and re-aired it on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The brand made some subtle changes to bring the spot up to date: Removing the snow to account for the different season, and drawing 1 World Trade Center into the skyline.

Here’s the 2001 version of the ad, followed by the 2011 version.

The original commercial aired with no copy. The new commercial adds on-screen text reading, “We’ll never forget,” followed by the Budweiser logo and “Enjoy Responsibly.” At the end is a card inviting viewers to donate to the 9/11 Memorial.

I don’t care for this commercial. Despite its charm (Awwwww… the horses are sad!) it still seems like a cynical ploy to sell beer.

I’m not alone in finding this ad distasteful. Like other 9/11 anniversary spots, this one was harshly panned by commenters on Ad Age on Adweek. (“Budweiser should be ashamed,” was a typical response.)

However, some new data shows we may be wringing our hands too hard over this. Normal people—ie., people who don’t make advertising for a living—love this stuff.

On YouTube, votes in favor of the old ad and the new ad are overwhelmingly positive. And a study conducted this week found that viewers love the Budweiser ad. As AdAge reports:

According to Ace Metrix, which measures ad effectiveness, “American consumers, by and large, rated the [9/11 tribute] ads very favorably.” The firm polled 500 adults. Anheuser-Busch’s Clydesdale tribute spot for Budweiser, beat out the others in the genre…

Perhaps most interesting is that the tribute ads beat out general category ads for effectiveness. Bud’s spot scored a 665 on the Ace Metrix scale of 0-950. The measurement firm said that it not only beats out the average beer-ad score of 478, but it makes it one of the “most effective ads so far this quarter.”

Looks like it worked. Viewers were willing to excuse the crass commercialism of the ad because they were actually touched by its sentiment. Budweiser gives the people what they want: Suds and schmaltz.

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Update: One of the advertising people involved in creating the original Budweiser Clydesdale 9/11 spot also finds the re-run to be questionable. Hill Holiday CEO (and former copywriter/creative director) Mike Sheehan writes on his company blog: “[W]hen it popped up on this Sunday’s NFL games, it just felt a tad bit, well, wrong. The snow on the ground in the original spot was never meant to be swept away, replaced by what appears to be a computer’s idea of Pro-Turf. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Related link

Is it ever OK to mention 9/11 in an ad?

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising


  1. Judy Verderber says:

    In my lifetime not many ads touched my heart like Budweiser tribute to 9/11. I am the mother of 6 and grandmother of 24. My dad who passed away at 95 years of age drank nothing but BUD. he always told us u were a first class operation and this ad proved it. Thank u I know I will never forget.

  2. Deborah Winamaki says:

    Can’t you people ever respect something for how it’s meant? What. You’re jealous? It took some of your thunder. How can you sleep at night–the people who lost loved ones needed all the support they could get and you have to hurt them. You people are sick!!!!!

  3. Jack Eaton says:

    I went looking for that commercial today, to show it to a few friends who had never seen it before. When I ran into your blog I thought that I should add my two cents into the conversation
    From the moment I first saw it, on the day of the game, I never took it for anything more than what I would hope a corporation like Budweiser would have intended it to be. A meaningful tribute to those who gave their lives on that day.
    Interesting that those in your industry saw it so differently than most of us in the general public. I hope that your view is one jaded by years in an industry built around deception and contouring the truth to suit your customers needs, and because of that you can’t see a simple honest truth.
    If your right, it’s a horrible commentary on our society as a whole. Because if it is as you say, then shame on Budweiser for making it and shame on us for buying into it. I suspect that the real truth as always, falls somewhere between your truth and mine.

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