Q&A: AB InBev’s Paul Chibe on Justin Timberlake tie-up

AB InBev’s Vice-president of US Marketing Paul Chilbe explains why they appointed a celebrity creative director for their Bud Light Platinum brand.


Paul Chibe
Vice-president of US Marketing
Anheuser-Busch InBev

Marketing Week (MW): You recently appointed Justin Timberlake as creative director for your new lager Bud Light Platinum. How are you working with him?

Paul Chibe (PC): I’m not interested in just buying a celebrity’s ‘face’. We want a relationship and an authenticity between the person and the brand. This is true of our relationship with [rapper] Jay-Z and Justin. Through their music they comment on culture directly or indirectly, and by working with them we are tapping into their ability to make cultural observations and what’s happening around us to drive relevance.

Jay-Z is the curator of the Budweiser Made in America festival. He will continue in that role, working with us on the acts, theme and creative development. Similarly, Justin is working with us on the creative development of Bud Light Platinum. You can see his mark on the ad because it is consistent with the theme of his Suit & Tie music video.

MW: How is Timberlake’s involvement different to simply being a celebrity endorsement and how does his role fit in with existing creative teams?

PC: Translation, which is a New York-based agency, is working with Justin and it is all grounded in strategy so that Justin is aware of what we are trying to accomplish with the brand. That’s part of the education process between us and the agency working with him and his team.

The creative process isn’t like you mail it in and here is what you are going to do, it’s a back and forth discussion. It’s not someone going off and doing something, it’s a partnership, we work together. What we are doing now is working with him on our strategy and we will [also] get into another round of creative work. Right now it is fully open: he has said he has a tonne of ideas so we are waiting for the next meeting to hear some of those.

MW: What effect does bringing in celebrities for an in-house role have on you as a marketer and on the marketing industry as a whole?

PC: I’m being resourceful – and also I’m not being arrogant. I think the arrogant approach would be that marketers know everything and that we have all the answers. It’s not like you are hiring someone who is here for a week and then gone: we are working with people who have been a part of pop culture fabric and have been successful for a long time.

I’m recognising that there are artists out there who, through their work, have done extraordinarily well at tapping into insights and making themselves and the things they work on relevant. I am working with them on our business.

MW: Is there a danger that consumers see celebrities working for brands as a gimmick?

PC: It all depends on how marketers approach it. If there is a genuine intention to collaborate and use your partnership to get their insight to help you create relevance for your brand, then it’s going to continue to be perceived positively. If it’s just buying a name, it won’t be successful.

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