If you watch sports on TV, beer advertising cannot be avoided. Mostly entertaining, some more than others. Once in a while, those of us in marketing question whether the ads are effective, as in do they help move product. Dos Equis and “The World’s Most Interesting Man” was a good example of success in this field.

Today we read about the other side, as Bud Light recorded its first full-year decline is sales. Consumerist picked up on it in August, and this week Ad Age got into the details…

Shortly after August Busch IV was named CEO of Anheuser-Busch, he accepted a company director’s recommendation for a consulting firm that would assist with managing the brewer’s burgeoning brand portfolio.

The firm, Cambridge Group, ended up going far beyond portfolio management. In fact, its exhaustive research resulted in the “Drinkability” campaign that — four years and millions in fees later — is considered a major factor in Bud Light posting the first full-year sales decline in its history.

The “Drinkability” debacle, however, resonates beyond A-B, as agencies increasingly chafe under the growing influence of consultants. Marketers are under pressure to justify their budgets, and CMOs, skating on ever-thinner ice, are trying to bring a more scientific approach to a discipline traditionally heavily reliant on gut calls. The degree to which these consultants’ recommendations and findings can translate directly into creative is becoming a familiar frustration for agencies.

Excellent report, with typically good comments.

Very few of today’s effort can rival the effectiveness of “Miller Time” or “This Bud’s For You.” And who doesn’t remember “Tastes Great, Less Filling?” I look forward to getting “drinkability” off the air…

ROI This!

Last month, Al Ries criticized the overuse of metrics in marketing in his Ad Age column, entitled “Metric Madness” (subscription required). I couldn’t agree more and I especially like what he wrote about experience:

An experienced marketing executive instrinctively knows whether a marketing program is working or not. Does Apple need to waste money to determine the ROI of its marketing efforts? What Apple is doing is working. What Microsoft is doing is not. You don’t need ROI numbers to figure this out.

There are many situations where the ROI is zero and yet the marketing expenditures are worthwhile. Nothing about a brand is more valuable than its market leadership. That valuable position is worth protecting. And advertising is the best way to protect it. Nike in athletic shoes. Heinz in ketchup. Rolex in watches.

In today’s business environment (read: Internet), you make your case to the finance department with your numbers. We spent this much and we got this in return. Fine, play the game: take the actual numbers and then crunch them to tell whatever story you want.

How honest is this? In direct response marketing, you use metrics — because you’re moving product. In general marketing, you’re moving brands — perceptions, positioning, awareness. Can you measure that in the short-term? Sure you can. Does it mean much? No, not really.

I had a supervisor who talked like a big “ROI guy” and used a lot of big words. He didn’t last long — and he’s still talking ROI like it’s going out of style.

Assess your work objectively. Just keep working and stick to your convictions.

During the summber of 2007, Al Ries also said the iPhone wouldn’t be a success. Heh.