Beer Company Erodes Long-Term Franchise

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Client: Miller Brewing Co.
Agencies: Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.; Ogilvy and Mather, Chicago

Word has it that Miller Brewing Co. wholesalers were delighted with the 2003 advertising they were shown

A decapitated head ogles a nearly-naked woman in one of the new Miller TV ads.
at their recent convention.

Hmm. Maybe they were drunk.

Because, with the exception of the Miller High Life work from Wieden & Kennedy, which is wonderful as always, the commercials the wholesalers saw are terrible.

Boobvertising as strategy
Ogilvy & Mather and its client were apparently so bedazzled by the publicity over their disgraceful "Catfight" stunt that they mistook that exercise in boobvertising for a strategy. Now they have built a campaign around sly references to the original spot, which you may recall featured a wrestling match between two busty babes.

The portrayal of women as pairs of big knockers with bad actresses incidentally attached was very popular with the part of the audience consisting of two testicles with slobbering morons attached -- a fact the desperate brewer took as license to flog the cleavage horse still harder.

Hard to understand why, however. The result was a lot of buzz, a lot of outrage, a lot of arrested-adolescent high fives and -- so far -- no measurable improvement in sales of Miller Lite. This brand is so far in the tank that the new owners evidently will try anything, even if it means permanently disenfranchising women and having nothing material to say about the brand.

A peep show might arouse the target audience, but it offers no reason to choose Lite. Nor does the spot showing a skinny guy decapitated by an Evander Holyfield right hook. It won't be on the air for long, because it will make small children cry. (1.5 stars)

Meanwhile, Miller Genuine Draft (O&M) has come up with a campaign that is logical, product-focused ... and still pretty awful. The spots are about accentuating the positive in a sea of negative, with MGD's brewing process offered as a metaphor for life: "Cold filter what you don't need. Keep what's good." What's portrayed as good

in the vignettes, of course, is sex. One particularly vulgar vignette shows a woman looking for a man with big hands, because big hands mean ... oh, never mind.

Another spot eschews raunchiness for explicit product differentiation -- comparing the pasteurization process used for most beers to boiling a lobster. That would be smart, if it didn't implicitly ridicule Miller Lite and Miller High Life, neither of which is cold-filtered. (1 star)

Franchise is eroded
Is there no one at this company thinking about the future of Miller's brands? Is there anyone who imagines that these campaigns will provide anything more than a short-term bump -- if that -- before causing still more erosion in a franchise already washed out to the seawall?

Thank goodness for High Life (3.5 stars), and the defiantly blue-collar ethic it hilariously defends. The best is about a husband who gives moral support for the little lady's diet. "Show her you're willing to dive down in the foxhole with her," the gravelly-voiced narrator says, by washing down your huge plate of meat and potatoes with a High Life Light.