I'm talking about the Anheuser-Busch (AB) Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" spoof that was to have been set backstage at last year's Super Bowl, immediately prior to halftime. It begins with a Galacowitz-styled regular fellow having trouble opening a bottle of Bud Light. To get a better purchase on the cap, he grabs Jackson's dress, which is loitering nearby. He damages her dress opening his beer and does a poor job of taping the ripped fabric - which produces revealing results (with Joe Buck's voiceover crowing, "whoa - you don't see THAT every day..." This is ironic, after his screed regarding Randy Moss two weeks ago. But, I digress).
The first thing I thought of when I read this story Wednesday and then Thursday's coverage of its impact on the Web in this publication by Shankar Gupta, is that this creative - if it actually existed - was never intended for broadcast.
As my colleague, Shankar, correctly pointed out, the ad functions on the Web. It may have even more powerful branding due to this fantastic PR strategy. Now that I've seen it myself on Budweiser's rather fantastic Web site, I'm marveling at just how far one of the most sophisticated brand machines can push the envelope.
With their 10 other 30-second spots, AB is one of the biggest players in the Super Bowl again this year, as it is every year. I'm sure that some watchdog group will investigate how many column inches of print coverage were devoted to this ad and its having been pulled, and announce that AB garnered more value from "free media" than the cost of a 30-second spot.
I hate that expression - "free media." While the opportunistic search marketing that Shankar and others have chronicled are regarded as highly strategic and can make search, for example, into a branding vehicle that buyers use to maintain "Brand Trust" among their consumers, good old fashioned creative public relations - I mean really creative PR - is regarded as just good fortune. What would Walter Winchell think?
For those of you who don't know who Walter Winchell was, know this: He invented the nexus between journalism and PR that today has mutated into the celebrity-shock-scandal-Howard-Stern-Foxification of what we call media. He's the guy who Matt Drudge thinks he's channeling. Only, when Winchell was doing it, he was head and shoulders above all others, and arguably more powerful than any other columnist in the country.
Enough of my screed - it's only by way of introducing my favorite quote of his. "The way to become famous fast," Winchell claimed, "is to throw a brick at someone who is famous."
Years ago, I managed to get a client of mine a White House briefing by having a reporter ask a question of the White House Press Secretary that we knew he'd not know the answer to. We really upset him. But, we met our objective. Whether leveraging momentum, or swimming against a hard current loudly, the Web makes this a whole lot easier than it was in Winchell's day.
Fame in this country is fleeting, but it's also easy to ignite -- thanks to the Web. Who's to say that the folks at Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, New York who created the ad ever thought it would run anywhere but online? What does it matter? Will this be counted as part of the migration of budget from broadcast to the Web?
Assuredly, many millions of users will go to the Bud site (and maybe even all four of you reading this) to stream the creative. Does that make it advertising? Of course not. Does that make it Web marketing? Of course it does. It's some of the best Web marketing I've encountered. It takes advantage of a huge event and pokes fun at a puritan minority at the same time. Good for them.
We shouldn't be surprised, though. After all, this is the company that enables visitors to their site to sign up for a free e-mail account: email@example.com. They know from branding.