Who's behind the "Wassup 2008" Obama ad? Not Budweiser.

Posted by: Burth Helm on October 27, 2008

This morning when I blogged about the “Wassup 2008” Obama video, two questions sprung to my mind. First, who paid for this thing? The production values are very high – one person from Budweiser’s ad agency, DDB, estimated it could have cost as much as $750,000 (she also said DDB had nothing to do with the video). Second, how could Budweiser possibly be cool with such a clearly partisan advertisement?

After some digging, I found out. First, it cost way less than $750k. Second, Budweiser had no clue it was happening until after the video hit YouTube on Friday.

The man with the answers? Charles Stone III, the director of the original “Wassup” commercial and the movie Drumline (and the guy who answers the phone in the first frame of the video). He decided to make it about two weeks ago, he told me, with a crew of about 50 volunteers (all professionals working pro bono). They put it together in 9 days.

It was all possible, Stone says, because Budweiser never owned the rights to the idea. He’d originally made it as a short film independent of the brand, and Budweiser had only leased the rights, paying a mere $37,000 for five years of use. Back then, people gave him a hard time about the low price. Now Stone, a diehard Obama supporter, says it’s more than paid off. “That I’m able to use an idea distributed by a huge company, who made a lot of money off it, so that now when I put out what I want to say, it’s recognizable, and it sparks -- that’s worth $1 million to me.”

It came together after emailing with friends about ways they could make a video supporting Obama. Once they’d settled on the concept, he got on the phone with the original cast (all friends of his, who are now actors living in New York, Philadelphia, and LA), and called up his Director of Photography from Drumline, Shane Hurlbut, who brought in his crew. He also signed up Gerard Cantor and Maurice Marible, from commercial production house Believe Media, who co-produced. They shot over two days. The war-torn Iraq setting is actually a preexisting set in Santa Clarita, CA.

After they finished, they uploaded it to YouTube with distribution company 60Frames, set up a website, wassup08.com, and sent links to everyone they knew. As of writing this, it’s been viewed almost 1.8 million times, and picked up across the blogosphere, including on BoingBoing, Daily Kos, and Huffington Post. The final price tag? About $6500 out of his own pocket, Stone says.

Reader Comments

MM

October 28, 2008 11:09 AM

Hats off to Charles Stone III for "leasing the rights" to Budweiser for a set dollar amount.

This business model is the future, as more and more people realize that they must retain their work/ideas as much as possible.

Mans

October 28, 2008 4:45 PM

Great story!
Thanks for the details :-) $6500 WOW.

Bryan

October 28, 2008 4:50 PM

well done, thank you Mr. Stone for donating your time and money

Trott Felipe

October 28, 2008 5:12 PM

Can I have $6,500?

James Collins

October 28, 2008 6:03 PM

Again, Mr. Stone shows how sophomoric, third grade, vacuous, inane and ridiculous all the people who support Obama are in their convoluted thinking. Does he really think 535 members of the congress and senate combined are going to genuflect and worship this tall, skinny, big eared simpering politician from Chicago?

Geo Washington

October 28, 2008 6:08 PM

I just read that Obama's state pension system is $44B in debt. The district he represents in Chicago is the worst in America. And, there have been more homicides in Chicago in the last six years than in the Iraq War. Are you sure this is the kind of leadership we want in WashingtonDC?

michael lamb

October 28, 2008 6:14 PM

why on earth would it even cost THAT much????

W Bushwacker

October 28, 2008 6:41 PM

Geo Washington, you deserve another 100 years of W for the false statement you are making. Its not you - its the system that has brainwashed you to make believe... I can't feel bad for you.

And Michael, you have no clue in life, so go back and do whatever you do. ok. You don't seem to understand the objective of the article...

David

October 28, 2008 8:34 PM

a number of my friends in australia have picked up on the clip and its moved through england viral networks. its really good concept and a great clip.

good work!

DF

October 29, 2008 12:59 PM

So, Mr Collins, people who support Obama are "sophomoric, third grade, vacuous, inane and ridiculous", yet all you can manage to say about him is that he's "tall, skinny, big eared"? That says it all.

I just came across this clip through the viral networks David mentioned and I think it's fantastic. Great story, Burt.

lisa Pixley

October 29, 2008 2:04 PM

That Ad made me laugh so hard. It's been tough. Nice to see we can let off steam and promote the message of change at the same time. GO Obama GO GO!!! wazzzzzzzzzzUUUUUUUUUaaap!!!

Will Johnston

October 30, 2008 12:48 AM

The idea that this video would cost $750k is patently absurd. Other than the pay for the actors, there's nothing about it that is super-expensive. Considering what can be done with After Effects, even the Iraq and hurricane scenes probably could have been mostly put together.

@Geo Washington
Your facts are just wrong. There haven't been more homicides in Chicago than deaths in the Iraq War. There have been thousands upon thousands of casualties. Estimates range from the tens to the hundreds of thousands. Even if you're just talking about American lives (which would seem decidedly cold), there have been fewer homicides in Chicago than Americans killed in Iraq (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Chicago)

Peter Nelson

October 30, 2008 10:42 AM

Great concept, perfectlty executed. My wife and I watched the spot laughing our asses off with tears in our eyes.

One thing that makes the ad so powerful is its universality - it's not just about a bunch of black guys from Philly - it shows how the whole COUNTRY has fared under Bush. I hope it helps Obama win and I hope it wins some awards.

DaveK

October 30, 2008 3:31 PM

Spot-on dialogue and editing. Great ad all around. Looks like that "simpering" Obama is about to kick some serious a$$.

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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