My first recollection of beer advertising, where it actually stuck in my head, was the “The Night Belongs To Michelob” campaign from the mid-80s-ish, in all its mid-80s-ish glory, with its mid-80s-ish hair and Gordon Gecko-esque hubris. Artists like Genesis, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Wang Chung (how 80s is that?), Talk Talk and, slightly puzzlingly, Frank Sinatra, formed the soundtrack for this homage to the opening montage of Saturday Night Live’s 25th year (which was actually 1989 and 1990, making this a prequel of sorts?)
But one of the clear heydays for beer advertising music, and jingles in particular, could very well have been the 1970s— where Budweiser and “Here Comes The King” occupied plenty of radars.
“I was still at the School of Journalism, University of Missouri at the time,” said Greg Wagner, Marketing Lecturer at The University Of Denver’s Daniels College Of Business and former Leo Burnett Creative Director.
“The jingle inspired me to join the Bud team in 1974 and work as a copywriter on ‘This Bud’s for You,’ then I worked as creative director on ‘Nothing Beats A Bud.’ Two other strong jingle campaigns for the King of Beers.”
And the song, originally published in 1970, was both creatively memorable and effective.
“It had a big band anthem sound, lots of singers, and the majestic Clydesdales in slow motion. It helped Bud become the biggest selling beer in the USA. The great jingles (like this one from Budweiser) worked because they made consumers remember your name, and like you,” remarked Wagner.
Like any good jingle, it crossed over into culture. Wagner pointed out that the University of Wisconsin still plays it at sporting events, swapping out the word “Budweiser” for “Wisconsin.” The St. Louis Cardinals still play it in the seventh inning of home games and in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” you’ll hear the commercial jingle on Richard Dreyfus’s TV as he sculptures away on his miniature “Devil’s Tower” in the living room. And in 1978, popular artist Lou Rawls put his own spin on the song, further opening up the scope of the campaign to wider audiences.
Another song from the 70s that managed to become one of those “ear worms” of sorts was 1978s “Let It Be Lowenbrau” by Arthur Prysock. Created by J. Walter Thompson’s Bill Backer (of “Buy The World A Coke” fame) and Miller Brewing Company in 1978, it is considered one of the all-time classic beer jingles.
The style of this song was a bit counter to what was (and is) de rigeur for the “usual” beer commercial. Upbeat and peppy was replaced with more mellow and soulful and, the jingle itself was then turned into a song “Here’s To Good Friends,” that didn’t do particularly well in the charts, but still made an impact to those who remember it well.
“I have many friends say it was the best beer commercial/jingle ever made,” said Keith Randall, Associate Director, Division of Marketing & Communications at Texas A&M.
“I have to agree. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”