Grant Pace grew up in Kansas City, attended SMU, and later wrote the very first Bud Bowl ads. He is now the Executive Creative Director at Conover Tuttle Pace in Boston.
mental_floss: How did the idea for the Bud Bowl come about?
Grant Pace: It was truly a team effort. Our client August Busch had told our agency, DMB&B in St. Louis, that he wanted to “own the Super Bowl” the upcoming year. To that date, no one had ever run multiple commercials around one idea in the big game, but this seemed to be one approach to make the kind of impact he desired. We had previously done some simple spots promoting long necks to go, featuring some stop-motion animation. Someone suggested extending that idea, bringing more bottles to life against the backdrop of a game or contest. Several pots of coffee later, the Bud Bowl was born.
m_f: Did you write all six of the first Bud Bowl’s spots? How many more did you write after that?
GP: I had the tremendous good fortune of being a young copywriter at the time who was given the opportunity to be the writer on this project by a benevolent boss, Dave Henke. I worked with Dave and two other art directors, Bill Oakley and Martin Buchanan, in creating the “game.” It was the only year I would work on this, as I cashed in on my notoriety and amazing ability to craft beer related football puns and moved to New York shortly thereafter.
m_f: What was your reaction to the amazing popularity of the first few Bud Bowls? Did it surprise you at all?
GP: It was pretty overwhelming. We did the animation with Broadcast Arts in New York, a group that was at the time the hottest show in town, as they were producing Pee Wee’s Playhouse. I recorded Bob Costas and Paul Maguire as our play-by-play and color “announcers.” David Letterman lampooned the idea on his show. And USA Today actually ran a betting line. Big stuff for a dumb kid from Kansas.
m_f: What’s your favorite Bud Bowl moment?
GP: We had a long neck in a crowd shot with a rainbow wig and a sign that read Bud 3:16.
m_f: How much has the success of the Bud Bowl followed you in your career? Does it bother you that you’re labeled as “The Bud Bowl Guy”? What projects that you’ve worked on are you the most proud of?
GP: I remain eternally grateful. I had a client who would back an idea of this magnitude (remember, these spots ran once and cost over $3 million to produce). And a team that gave me the chance to be a part of this. I have done other big campaigns (Miller, Audi, Hanes, to name a few) and other spots that are famous on the Internet (“Blind Date”), but nothing that has become a part of ad lore.
m_f: Can you describe the alternate ending to Bud Bowl I that never ran?
GP: It all led up to the big moment when the little 8 oz. bottle went out to kick the field goal. Suddenly ominous music began and the bottles all stopped and looked up. A hand reaches in and grabs two of the bottles. Cut inside a kitchen where a man at a Super Bowl party is closing the fridge door. He holds 2 longnecks. He stops, pauses, then shakes his head as if to say, “I didn’t just see that…” And leaves frame. We begin a slow creep towards the fridge, and a light begins to emanate from the edges. We hear Costas and Maguire shouting amidst the chaos to “call the police, call the commissioner, call SOMEBODY!” and we [superimpose] our tie score. When our client saw the ad, and the “did it happen or did it not” ending, they asked, “What do we do next year then?” As creatives, we all looked at the account guys and blamed them for not telling us there would be a next year. Then we went and added an ending where the bottle kicks the winning field goal.
m_f: Why do you think the Bud Bowl – in its original, in-game commercial form, at least – was abandoned in 1997, and do you think there’s any hope for a comeback?
GP: I think it had outlived its usefulness and was becoming a tired joke. That and there really are only so many beer/football puns out there. Like Orville Redenbacher, maybe they will simply run the original one day.
m_f: Are there any commercials you worked on for this year’s Super Bowl that readers should keep an eye out for?
GP: Not this year. I’ll be firmly ensconced on my couch here in Boston watching the Patriots aim for history.
m_f: Are you a Pats fan?
GP: Actually, I am a diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan. Which pretty much means I have been watching the Super Bowl for the ads since I was 9.