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‘Dilly Dilly’ meaning: The story behind phrase from Bud Light commercials

The king tells his people to "Dilly Dilly" in Bud Light commercial
The king tells his people to “Dilly Dilly” in Bud Light’s commercial

You’ve probably heard “Dilly Dilly” before, and you’re almost certainly going to be hearing a lot more of it — with the phrase taking center stage in Bud Light’s 2018 Super Bowl ad campaign.

Dilly Dilly was first used back in August 2017 when Bud Light started its series of new medieval-themed commercials with the “Banquet” spot below.

The phrase has since made several more appearances, with characters using it as a toast similar to “cheers” or as a phrase signifying approval, such as “hear hear”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8Cb5Wk2t-8

Is Dilly Dilly real or made up?

Well, both, actually. “Dilly” on its own is an actual word, used mainly in North America. The definition in the Oxford English Dictionary is “An excellent example of a particular type of person or thing”.

Using the word twice in succession, as it is in the Bud Light commercials, is a new thing though — and whatever the meaning, the way they are using it is a made-up phrase.

How did they come up with the phrase?

N.J. Placentra of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy told the Chicago Tribune that he and co-worker Alex Ledford came up with the phrase out of the blue while brainstorming for the “Banquet” commercial.

He added that they wanted a phrase that would get the same meaning across as if the king was saying “huzzah” when approving the gifts he was given by various subjects.

So what does it mean exactly?

While Dilly Dilly has, as mentioned above, mostly been used to replace phrases like “cheers” or “hear hear”, in the commercial below it seems to take on another meaning altogether, with the king rallying his troops with the phrase as he orders them into battle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77NX05V6tq8

According to Anheuser-Busch’s chief marketing officer Miguel Patricio, Dilly Dilly means whatever you want it to.

He told Business Insider: “‘Dilly Dilly’ doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty of it. I think that we all need our moments of nonsense and fun. And I think that ‘Dilly Dilly,’ in a way, represents that.”

Are we going to keep hearing it?

It certainly looks like it. While Patricio revealed that the campaign didn’t test well with focus groups, they decided to just go ahead with it anyway saying “consumers will get it”.

The “Dilly Dilly” phrase is now a legit viral phenomenon. Bud Light told SB Nation that there have been more than 500,000 mentions of the catchphrase on Twitter since the campaign was launched.

Meanwhile, according to Adweek there have been an average of 300,000 searches for the phrase on Google on average per month — with the campaigns ads being viewed over 2 billion times in total.

Taking that all into account, it seems likely that you haven’t heard the last of “Dilly Dilly” yet.

Julian is the editor of Monsters & Critics. He has worked as a journalist for more than ten years, previously as an editor at the... read more
Julian Cheatle

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