Image: Bud "Rocky" ad
Gonna lift the dog now: Hank works out under the direction of an unnamed Dalmatian.
updated 2/4/2008 5:49:45 PM ET 2008-02-04T22:49:45

This year’s Super Bowl ads weren’t as good as the game — and how often can you say that? — but in the minds of users, Budweiser’s “Rocky” parody was the clear winner in our second annual Ad Showdown.

Budweiser’s only ad during the game (Bud Light had six) featured Hank, a Clydesdale who narrowly misses the cut to become a member of the brand’s iconic team. A dejected Hank then meets a Dalmatian who trains him as “Gonna Fly Now,” better known as the theme from “Rocky,” plays in the background.

A year later Hank makes the team, leading to a hoof-paw high-five.

Anheuser Busch tested 17 ads for focus groups, although “Rocky” was the only one for the Budweiser brand. Keith Levy, vice president of brand management for the brewer, said the company knew it had a winner from the start of testing.

“Maybe it’s just a function of where consumers are today, being bombarded by negative messaging. This thing just tested through the roof. It was a positive message,” Levy said.

“I think it resonates with people because one, Budweiser has high standards, and two, it says if you work hard good things will come to you.”

The DDB agency in Chicago, which has long been associated with Anheuser-Busch, created the spot. Levy declined to say how much the company paid, offering, “Well, it’s expensive, but you get what you pay for.”

The airtime alone for the game's only 60-second spot would have cost $5.4 million at the official rate, although Anheuser-Busch got an estimated 25 percent discount from Fox as the biggest ad buyer.

And the high-five at the end? It’s real, not digital.

“Of course the dog and horse were shot separately,” Levy said. “We have this guy we call the horse whisperer. You’d be amazed what he can get these Clydesdales to do.”

As of Monday afternoon, more than 139,000 users had cast their votes in the bracket-style contest. The top five were:

  • Budweiser, "Rocky," 19 percent.
  • Pepsi Max, “What is love,” 7 percent.
  • E-Trade, “Baby (part 1),” 7 percent.
  • Life Water, “Thriller,” 7 percent.
  • Bridgestone, “Scream,” 6 percent.

The Ad Showdown was not a scientific survey.

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