Crispin was the agency of record for Miller Lite and Miller High Life.
Ill-fated 'Man Laws' campaign
After being tapped as Miller Lite's shop last year, Crispin produced the brewer's "Man Laws" campaign, which it said was an attempt to build "social currency" for Lite using humorous concept spots starring celebrities such as Burt Reynolds and football star Jerome Bettis.
The ads generated buzz and seemed to penetrate pop culture, but did a poor job of selling beer. Miller Lite sales declined during 2006 as sales for rivals Bud Light and Coors Light grew. Miller scrapped the Man Laws campaign in January.
Miller recently has been running self-produced ads touting its calorie-and-carbohydrate advantages over other beers. When asked last week why Crispin had not created the spots, a spokesman said the shop was "busy" producing the brand's next full-scale campaign.
But, apparently, the client and the marketer struggled to reach an agreement on how to proceed.
"We just have fundamental differences over creative and strategy," Alex Bogusky, chief creative officer at Crispin, said in a statement released this afternoon. "And although we made every attempt to find common ground, the process of multilayered approvals of creative and strategy has made doing work we can be proud of increasingly difficult. So it seems to be in the best interest of both parties to part ways. We wish them the very best."
In a statement responding to the resignation, Miller said: "We appreciate the work Crispin has done for Miller and we wish them all the best."
According to TNS Media Intelligence, Miller Lite spent $106 million on measured media in 2006, although Miller has maintained that TNS undercounts its spending, which it says is closer to the $152 million TNS measured in 2005.
Miller CEO Tom Long, who in an earlier stint as the brewer's chief marketing officer made the decision to award the account to Crispin, has given speeches in recent months taking the blame for the Man Laws ads, saying they mistakenly strayed from focusing on the beer.
CEO's mea culpa
Addressing the Beer Business Daily summit recently, Mr. Long said, "Those people who have conviction in the intrinsic goodness of their beer are the folks that win. To be honest, I veered off the path of that this last year. We know what works for Miller Lite. In retrospect, when we made that move to Men of the Square Table to elevate the social currency of the brand -- which is important -- we moved off that at exactly the wrong time, because as this category gets more crowded and the competitive set gets bigger and bigger, we needed to go back to our core."
During 2003 and 2004, Miller Lite gained market share with a series of comparative ads looking at differences in carbohydrates and taste between it and Bud Light. That momentum was stifled when rival Anheuser-Busch cut prices -- A-B beers still sell at a premium to Miller's, but a smaller one -- and Miller has struggled to regain momentum since.
The brewer, in fact, will feel the defection more keenly on the smaller Miller High Life account. Crispin late last year was awarded the High Life business, and responded by producing a campaign centered around a gruff-talking beer-truck driver who extracted High Life from effeminate accounts such as French restaurants and gourmet groceries.
High Life man
The campaign realigned the brand with the essence of its longtime High Life Man mascot, created by Wieden & Kennedy, the gruff-talking, blue-collar drinker who starred in its ads from 1998 to 2005.
High Life sales improved in the months that followed, and Miller recently said it intended to air the campaign, which had been exclusively aired in the Midwest, nationwide. It had also planned additional installments.
The brewer spent about $8 million on High Life last year and $16 million a year earlier, according to TNS.
A Miller spokesman declined to comment about the brewer's immediate plans for the two brands in the wake of Crispin's departure. Its remaining roster shops at the moment are Y&R, Chicago, which handles Miller Genuine Draft and the startup Miller Chill, and Mother, New York, which works on Milwaukee's Best.