Marketing Catfight Brewing Between Beam and Kraft Foods

Last year, the Illinois-based spirits and liquor company Beam developed the very successful “Make It” marketing  campaign for their Sauza Tequila brand, which targeted women. The video featured a hunky fireman (played by Thomas Beaudoin), blatantly using sexual innuendos while hanging with an adorable kitten and making Sauza Tequila margaritas.

Needless to say, it was highly effective and managed to land on YouTube’s 2012 Most Watched Ads list – with more than 10 million views. This year, Sauza shot their second edition to the campaign, named “Make It with a Lifeguard,” which features model Anderson Davis playing a sought-after sex symbol while frolicking around on the sand with a white Labrador puppy. They even invited First to Know to Delfino Studios in Sylmar, California, to be on set and get a behind-the-scenes exclusive of the shoot.

Originally scheduled for an April 15 release, Beam and its ad agency Havas/Chicago were surprised to learn that Kraft Foods Inc. decided to follow their lead and steal their fire by releasing the “Let’s Get Zesty” campaign, which also features a shirtless Davis.

Despite Davis posting the news on his personal website that he would be featured as the face for both Sauza Tequila and Zesty Italian Dressing this month, a Beam spokeswoman announced this morning that no one at Beam or its ad agency was aware that Davis was appearing in the Kraft campaign. They also had no idea that he was playing the same shirtless role he portrays in their soon-to-be-released commercial for “Make It with a Lifeguard.”

The Chicago Business Journal reported that a spokesperson from Kraft knew that Davis was working with Sauza, but wasn’t aware of the specifics involving his campaign with them.

Regardless of these events, Beam is not accelerating anything, because they clearly were first with the launch of their Sauza “Make It” campaign with a fireman in 2012. But their newest iteration of the Sauza campaign actually began getting promoted in March via digital teasers on YouTube and Facebook.  They are continuing to roll out their latest version of the campaign within the same time frame as originally planned.  After hearing the excitement women have for the Sauza Lifeguard, they decided to give them a little taste of what’s to come and will be revealing one of the Sauza® Make It With a Lifeguard videos tomorrow on YouTube.  The full campaign will launch mid-April.

In a statement this morning, Beam said: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And apparently one company believes nothing goes better with Sauza margaritas than a zesty salad. Sauza Tequila broke new ground in 2012 with its ‘Make It’ campaign, featuring the perfect recipe for success with female consumers: a fireman, an adorable kitten and a great-tasting recipe for margaritas … The success of our ‘Make It’ campaign has opened the door for other companies to do the same — even with the same moves and the same actor.”

Beam has not decided whether it will issue a formal protest to Kraft, but they are convinced that Davis is soaking in the limelight of his attempts at becoming a viral video superstar. Yesterday, Davis was featured on the Andy Cohen Show in New York, and today he made his rounds over at Good Morning America.

Check out Sauza’s “Make It with a Fireman” commercial from last year, as well as Kraft’s newly released “Let’s Get Zesty” ad, and decide for yourself just how similar the two are. Check out this year’s  “Make It with a Lifeguard” video here, as well as other exclusive behind-the-scenes goodies!