WOMEN FROM VENUS, BEER FROM MILLER

Liquor Ads Probe Gender Roles

By Published on .

Advertiser: Miller Brewing Co.
Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, New York
Ad Review rating: Three Stars

Men are from Mars. Women are from -- who the hell knows where women are from?

We ourselves are just delighted that pop psychologists like John Gray, serious linguists like Deborah Tannen and comedians like Rob Becker have made it politically acceptable once again to acknowledge that, equality notwithstanding and with all respect for feminist progress, women are just too freaking bizarre for words.

Sexually juvenile
Yeah, men are brutes. They are compulsively competitive, emotionally stunted, sexually juvenile and they kill for sport, blah, blah, blah. But, for God’s sake, at least they don't talk about relationships.

And little bowls of potpourri in bathroom -- what the hell is that all about?

Our point is not to claim some sort of superiority or moral authority but simply to observe that we, the homicidal, belching crotch-rearrangers of the world, continue to be bemused by dames. And, though we are sullen and uncommunicative with our womenfolk, and virtually monosyllabic around one another, one thing we do talk about is feminine idiosyncrasy.

Therefore, if you are a beer advertiser trying to reach young men -- and you've finally internalized the notion that pure smut is just plain wrong -- there's no better subject matter than la difference.

La difference
Specifically: how la difference applies to getting together for a beer or six in order to either a) score with women or b) get a few hours away from them.

In other words, about life.

Bud Light has done this for 10 years. Miller Lite is a Johnny-come-lately to such themes, having squandered the past decade to various misguided strategies. But the past year has seen Lite go head to head (ha!) with Bud Light on Bud's psychographic turf. And, lo and behold, all of a sudden, Lite is doing it better.

Undercover Babes
One current spot, from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, shows a couple on a sofa, necking. When the guy's phone rings, they let it go for the caller to leave a message, as follows: "This is Jim's Video calling. Two videos, Camp Cleavage and Undercover Babes, are late again. Could you please return them?" The guy, needless to say, is as embarrassed as the girlfriend is disgusted.

Cut to another scene: three other guys sitting at a poker table, as one of them hangs up from making the crank call. "I think we have a fourth," he smirks. Then -- WAHH WAHH -- a two-note horn flourish that punctuates the punch line in every spot.

It's exaggerated, but knowing and funny.

Hell freezes over
Actually, this campaign is at least as funny about male idiosyncrasy. Besides the poker game gambit, there is the spot showing Hades suddenly chilled to sub-zero temperatures. Cut to a terrestrial barroom where a particularly stingy guy has just bought a round of Lites for the gang and, yes, hell has frozen over.

Another shows a guy feeding his pets, and them scrambling out to the sound of the food being served. When he cracks open a Lite, naturally, his own crew barges in. (The last guy is fabulous: "You guys hangin' out? I'll hang out.")

Even better -- in a sub-campaign of :15's fleshing out the quirks of Miller Time -- we see two morons bonding, with decreasingly playful punches on the shoulder.

'At least he's not naked'
Another one shows a guy, alone, holding his cat and chirping in baby talk: "Who's a little moustache man?! Who's got a furry little moustache?!" Anyway, he thinks he's alone. Two friends are witnessing this through the screen door, nonplussed. "At least he' s not naked," one says.

Fair being fair, Lite also cultivates women drinkers. In one spot, two ladies are at a bar when they spy two gorgeous guys at a back table. They are delighted, till the men tenderly join hands. Apart from the probably unprecedented judgment-neutral depiction of homosexuality in a mainstream beer ad, clearly this agency knows what women are thinking, too.

Sure, it's stereotypical, but stereotypes don't come from nowhere. Lite chose not to speak about its beer -- why lead with your chin? -- so it’s talking about the sociodynamics of beer drinking.

And the miracle is, there's nothing horny about it -- WAHH WAHH -- except the soundtrack.

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