By Dorothy Thompson.
Jeff Bridges and Sarah Jessica Parker play their old roles in the spot
The Dude is back, and so is Carrie Bradshaw—but only for a few seconds. Jeff Bridges and Sarah Jessica Parker reprise their roles from “The Big Lebowski” and “Sex and the City” in a Super Bowl ad for Stella Artois that was released today.
The 45-second spot from Mother New York shows the two actors in character swapping their usual drinks for the Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned brew. Bradshaw was known for her love of Cosmopolitans, while Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski is synonymous with White Russians. In the ad, the two characters bump into each other at a restaurant after ordering Stellas—The Dude calls his a Stella “Ar-toes”—creating a stir among the wait staff.
The show and movie both debuted in 1998, making the ad seemingly tailor-made for GenXers and older millennials. But Stella execs are banking on a wider appeal.
The Dude and Bradshaw are “really both icons of pop culture,” says Peter Van Overstraeten, who oversees Stella as VP of premium and super premium brands at AB InBev. While the characters have been out of the spotlight for years, “that doesn’t mean a slightly younger demographic is not aware of them or binge watching ‘Sex and the City.'”
Bridges teased The Dude’s return in a vague tweet Thursday morning that drew plenty of notice, including nearly 7,000 comments and 180,000 likes within 24 hours.
Some publications falsely interpreted it as a tease to a sequel, not a Super Bowl commercial, which could leave some fans of the film disappointed.
Stella Artois was more direct in foreshadowing Bradshaw’s role, releasing a 15-second branded video last week showing her in character plugging the brand’s ongoing partnership with Water.org, the group co-founded by Matt Damon that invests in clean water initiatives for developing countries.
The Super Bowl spot urges viewers to “Change Up the Usual” —an obvious call for drinkers to drop their liquor habits for the Belgian lager. Spirits brands have been outperforming the beer industry for years. Stella had been immune, posting solid growth year-after-year. But the brand hit a speed bump last year. Sales at stores dropped nearly 1% in the year-to-date period ending Nov. 30, according to IRI data recently cited by Beer Marketer’s Insights.
Stella has “the credentials to be a super premium alcoholic drink just like hard liquor,” Van Overstraeten says. “My strategy is not to go after cocktails, but if I can steal from them why wouldn’t I?”
The ad is filled with subtle references to the movie and show that hard-core fans will notice. For instance, the bartender’s name is Gary, also the name of the barkeep in the bowling alley in Big Lebowski. The Dude closes with his signature phrase, “The Dude Abides.”
The spot opens with a string trio at the bar playing the “Sex and the City” theme. When The Dude appears, the soundtrack switches to what sounds like the tune from the opening credits of Lebowski, Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me.” But Van Overstraeten confirmed that it is a remake because the brand does not have rights to the Dylan tune. (Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” the original, backs one of AB inBev’s other Super Bowl ads, for Budweiser.)
The ad also makes a quick plug for Stella’s water “Pour it Forward” campaign that is affiliated with Water.org. For a limited time, Stella will make donations to the organization based on beer purchases. For each six-pack of Stella sold, for instance, the brand will donate in an amount that provides six months of clean water for one person in the developing world.