It's hard to say whether Budweiser's activities today are beyond anything and everything it's done before. But the celebration of the repeal of Prohibition -- December 5, 1933 -- has to come close.
There were hints starting back late October, when the company announced its limited edition 1933 Repeal Reserve Amber Lager. Anheuser-Busch claimed the recipe was based on a lager that Adolphus Busch had brewed but, because of the onset of Prohibition in 1920, never distributed much beyond St. Louis.
Today their full efforts hit. Fair warning, I only know of two for certain because much of this doesn't seem to have hit the media to a big degree. (That has to sting the company and its agency, which appears to be David Miami.)
The first part of the campaign to become obvious was revealed with USA Today this morning. A four-page wrapper on the outside of the paper, listed as Section E, had the headline, "Prohibition Has Ended".
An article below is listed as written by Adolphus Busch and delivered on radio in 1933. In the center was a spread announcing that "Beer Is Back" along with an ad and on the back, another ad. Given that a single spread ad runs $398,000 according to the USA Today rate card, this had to push $800,000 to $1 million in media costs alone. (Maybe they got a discount for a few cases.)
Some hours later came an online video.
The theme: What would life be like today if Prohibition was still in force? A packed bar in Atlanta with a time listed as 8:47 pm, so clearly produced in advance as it appeared online hours ago, has people watching sports, being loud, and drinking. Then coverage switches from a game to a faked break-in by a news department along with the message: "We interrupted live TV and phones to see how people would react to Prohibition today."
The newscaster says, "This just in: The 21st Amendment of the United States Constitution has been repealed, setting Prohibition back into immediate effect." You see many reaction shots on the part of the patrons and bartenders then go around and start collecting all the drinks. People chant, "We want beer," until the news announcer comes back on again, says "I have some good news. Look," and points to the door where a delivery man is wheeling in a keg. Of Budweiser, but you knew that."
Some marketing watchers took this as an actual live event pranking the patrons of a real bar with perhaps a planted bartender. I don't know. Too many of the people seemed like the types of extras you'd see in a movie. Cameras were everywhere, so clearly something would have been going on. Plus, there's all the lighting they'd likely need to get quality video.
Still, A plus for creativity and timing. This was a good promotion.
And if you noticed any other parts of this promotion that I missed, be sure to say something on Twitter. I'm at @ErikSherman.