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A Look Inside Budweiser’s Puppy-Powered Super Bowl Ad

These days, the best Super Bowl commercials actually trickle out days in advance, building buzz ahead of the big game, and although this renders your Facebook feed a veritable spoiler city, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It certainly isn’t for Budweiser, whose 2014 Super Bowl commercial premiered four days early and amassed more than 23 million views in its first two days on YouTube. It features the beer maker’s famous Clydesdale horses and—because it wasn’t already going to make you cry—a golden retriever puppy forging an unlikely friendship.

Budweiser Vice President Brian Perkins is part of the brain trust that creates these commercials. "We’ve had Clydesdales in our Super Bowl commercials since 1986," he tells us. "They are icons of the game as much as they are icons of the Budweiser brand."

We spoke with Perkins about the planning that goes into these iconic commercials each year, and about the equity that, in his words, "takes decades to build."

BB Man: Last year's Clydesdale commercial was the game's big tear-jerking ad. Why do you think people respond to these animals the way they do?

Perkins: We know from extensive research and talking to beer drinkers and fans and consumers for years that there’s a hard-wired link in people's heads between the nobility and majesty of Clydesdales and the quality and care put into Budweiser beer. They are living, breathing icons of the brand, and they reinforce the quality message, the authenticity message. They’re really important to us.

BB Man: What made you decide to add a puppy to the mix this year, besides the obvious fact that it's adorable?

Perkins: We wanted to explore similar themes of friendship and the bonds that last year’s ad explored, but we didn’t want it to be a predictable sequel. The idea came organically from one of our Clydesdale ranches (Anheuser Busch owns close to 300 Clydesdale horses, housed in several ranches all over the U.S.). We had a golden retriever puppy at this ranch, and we observed the puppy was fascinated with the size of the horse, and the horse was noble and gentle with the puppy. They developed an authentic bond. That’s a story we were interested in telling.

BB Man: Football fans have come to expect the best from Budweiser’s ads. How important is it for a brand like Budweiser to deliver top-notch Super Bowl ads year after year?

Perkins: It’s absolutely critical because 110 million people are watching the game and we are scrutinized and talked about whether we are good or bad [both in comparison to our previous ads as well as all other Super Bowl ads in that given year]. Today I have mixed feelings. The ad is blowing up, and that’s amazing. But a small part of me is thinking about next year, and that this is going to be tough to beat.

BB Man: How will you be watching the game? Enjoying a favorite game day snack?

Perkins: This will be my first time actually attending the Super Bowl. Our second spot will debut some time Friday or Saturday. That one is a not really a commercial in some senses—there are no actors, it’s all real life, from a moment that we captured to welcome a returning soldier home. The soldier is attending the game with his girlfriend, and I’ll be there with them. God knows what I’ll be snacking on, but I’ll definitely be drinking a Budweiser. Several Budweisers.

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