Ah, 1999. The year Lou Bega ruled the charts, and every dude in America picked up his cordless dorm room phone to say, "Whassssssssup?!" to literally anyone who called it.
It might seem like simple nostalgia now, but that famous "Monday Night Football" Budweiser commercial put a Dukie-sized crater in the pop-culture zeitgeist. And now it's freakin' 17 years old -- older than "Damn Daniel" and his damn Vans, our current meme of the week.
Feel free to chill and drink a Bud while we take a look at its lasting impact.
The minority cast was kind of a big deal
And not just because they were minorities -- there had obviously been commercials starring African-Americans before 1999. But this spot was different: it was a mainstream campaign for the biggest beer in America, that used black humor and black actors to appeal to a mainstream audience. It's one of the first (and definitely the most prominent) commercials to lead a campaign with minority actors that wasn't directed towards a minority audience, exclusively.
"Whassup?!", which was inspired by the short film True by Charles Stone III (who also directed Drumline, a terrific Nick Cannon film), was just as much about ignoring race as emphasizing it.
It set the stage for memes
It wasn't the first meme, of course. Catchphrases and recurring jokes have floated through culture since there was culture in the first place, but "Whassup?!" might have been the first meme widely embraced by millennials, the de-facto meme generation. “This is by far the most iconic, pop-culture-spiking and memed ad of the 21st century. It is funny as shit, loved by all, and has that effortless, don’t-take-itself-too-seriously confidence that most brands wish they could achieve,” said Robert Wong, chief creative officer of Google Creative Lab, according to Adweek.
The commercial hit our generation at the right time -- we were just old enough to get it, and still young enough to think it was elevated humor. It was the spark that, for better or worse, ignited a thousand Bad Luck Brians and millions of Rick Rolls.
It had an absolutely bat-shit sequel that no one has ever heard of
Aside from the dozen-or-so variations on the ad Budweiser rolled out from '99 to '01, the commercial had a spiritual sequel in 2008, featuring most of the original cast. Only this time they weren't hawking beer: they were taking on politically charged topics like the 2008 election, turbulence in the Middle East, and the financial crisis. Key scene: the jovial fat guy with the goatee trying to hang himself after checking his financial portfolio.
I wish I was kidding.
It might just be the most important commercial of my generation
At the end of the day, sure, "Whassup?!" was just a Bud commercial, but it had a real, meaningful impact on American culture. It was fun, overwhelmingly relatable, and didn't take itself seriously. There's a reason it's in the Advertising Hall of Fame, and known as one of the greatest campaigns of its time. It even caused a direct spike in Budweiser sales.
Try to identify a commercial that made a bigger impact. It's near impossible.
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