In 1995, a nation was rapt as three frogs croaked the syllables in “Budweiser.” Four years later, Budweiser prompted countless television viewers to wag their tongues and ask their friends, “Whassup?”
Since then, the list of commercial catchphrases to earn a cultural foothold has been short. But a nonsense phrase from an advertisement set in medieval times has broken through to become a common barroom cheer and online force to an extent that in some ways has exceeded its pre-social-web predecessors.
In an advertisement that debuted in August, citizens of a fictional world approach their king, presenting increasing quantities of Bud Light as offerings. The king names each person a “friend of the crown,” then leads the banquet hall in a call-and-response toast in which they all repeat “dilly dilly.” When a man instead smugly presents “a spiced honey mead wine that I have really been into lately,” he is shuffled off to the “pit of misery.”
The implication is that Bud Light is for you and all of your friends; fancy craft beer is only for yourself.
The ad was one of six produced by Wieden & Kennedy, an advertising agency, and executives at Budweiser say they gravitated to it immediately. But no one anticipated how much “dilly dilly” would spread, especially in the sports world.
Seemingly every N.F.L. touchdown was greeted by cries of “dilly dilly” on social media. And fans tweeted that players who performed poorly should be sent to the pit of misery.
Brandon Henderson, a creative director at Wieden & Kennedy, said he realized the phrase might take off when he saw a student write it on a sign in the background of ESPN’s “College GameDay.”
F John Parker, another creative director, said he thought he had heard something familiar when he was watching a fourth-quarter play of a “Thursday Night Football” game in November. He was watching with his wife as Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, called out in code to direct his teammates.
“Did he just say ‘dilly dilly’?” he asked his wife. He rewound, and sure enough — yes, he did.