Building the Bud Light Institute (without actually building it)

Agency/media company*

Agency/media company*

Labatt Media Group/

Downtown Partners


Labatt Breweries of Canada


Bud Light

Media budget


Media used


(glass-mounted wall mural)





June through July, 2001

Media team

John Verdon, brand manager, Bud Light, Labatt Breweries of Canada

Ron Christie, group media manager, PJDDB Downtown (now at Labatt Media Group)

Tim Binkley, account director, PJDDB Downtown

David Chiavegato, creative

director, PJDDB Downtown

(now at Grip)

Rich Pryce-Jones, creative director, PJDDB Downtown (now at Grip)

The background

The plan’s objective was to bring the Bud Light Institute to life – and with it, all of the brand’s attributes (guy fun, humorous, masculine, ironic).

Within this objective was the underlying requirement to provide the Bud Light Institute with a sense of physical presence in Toronto, thus reinforcing the brand’s presence in the Canadian marketplace, without actually having to construct or rent a building, much less staff a real institute.

A limited budget for this tactical plan required multiple executions that combined for a larger than life impact through exploitable talk value and PR opportunities.

The plan

Physical presence

With condominium construction in Toronto at its zenith in the spring and summer of 2001, the physical execution for the Bud Light Institute was as apparent as the ‘Coming Soon – Waterpark Condos’ signs that dotted the landscape.

Standing out amidst the clutter of real construction signs presented a problem that was solved by the arrival of glass-mounted mural capabilities in the marketplace. The result was a 5,000-square-foot poster at the corner of Eglinton and Duplex that, at the time, was the first and only glass-mounted mural in the city’s core.

The creative towered six stories above the Eglinton/Duplex intersection, featuring an ominous ‘Coming Soon’ notice over a graphic depicting the institute as a Metropolis-inspired monolith dedicated to the promotion of guy’s fun. Area residents were seen to clamber out of their cars for a better look at what threatened to be the respectable neighbourhood’s worst nightmare.


A desire to represent the Bud Light Institute as a tangible, semi-functional entity was handled in a fairly straightforward manner: employment ads for a figurehead CEO, placed in Toronto dailies and the weeklies Eye and Now.

Placement was in the sports sections of the daily newspapers and ROP in the weeklies. Non-traditional placement provided extended reach against the demographic and generated several responses from the media. The ads were not placed among the real want ads, as Bud Light’s target consumers – largely employed males ages 25 to 34 – would be less likely to see them.

Applicants were directed to the Bud Light Institute Web site ( in order to obtain applications and register with the Institute database. The site helped bolster the Institute’s physical presence, as well as dangling proprietary offers and more guy fun.

The application process climaxed in an audition for the CEO job, held at City Core Golf in downtown Toronto – symbolic of the ‘golf boondoggle’ typical to the brand’s personality. Local and national media broadcast the event, enjoying the irony of a CEO hired to do nothing.

This was followed by newspaper announcement ads placed in the sports sections of the Toronto Sun and Star, announcing appointments to fictional non-positions such as Head Ferret Trainer and Chief Locust Breeder at the Bud Light Institute. These notices capitalized on the equity built up by Bud Light’s irreverent television executions.

Finally, the Web site featured a colourful overview of the CEO search, effectively bringing the Institute into being.

The results

Bud Light remains one of the fastest-growing beer brands in Canada.

Over 1,500 application forms for the CEO position were downloaded from the Bud Light Institute Web site – and each name was incorporated into the Bud Light database.

Over 100 applicants showed up to audition for the CEO position on a weekday afternoon at the City Core Golf Course – some waiting up to three hours to take part.

The Bud Light Institute and CEO search received coverage in both mainstream media (Global, CityTV, Toronto Star, National Post, MOJO Radio, Q107, The Edge 102), as well as in trade publications (Marketing). The estimated total value of the editorial coverage exceeded the actual executional costs.

The campaign combined new and traditional media to create a conceptual place where levity and hanging out with the guys are rewarded and respected.

*Note: This plan was written by Ron Christie while employed at PJDDB Downtown (now Downtown Partners). He continues to plan for Bud and Bud Light at Labatt’s in-house agency, the Labatt Media Group.

Judges’ verdict

‘Shows a perfect relationship between media and creative.’

‘Everything from the glass mural to the classified ads and golf tournament were consistent with the strategy, without sacrificing important media criteria, such as traffic count for the selected building and section placement of the ads.’