This is the second account awarded in Miller's two-part creative review, following the $106 million Miller Lite account moving to Publicis sibling Bartle Bogle Hegarty earlier this month. WPP Group's Y&R is the one finalist in the review to walk away without a new assignment (Y&R currently handles Miller Genuine Draft and Miller Chill).
Steadily falling sales
High Life, like most full-calorie domestic macrobrews, has seen sales decline steadily for decades. It experienced a renaissance in the late 1990s, when Wieden & Kennedy created the iconic "High Life Man," a gruff-talking everyman who reconnected the beer with its blue-collar roots by extolling the virtues of eating sandwiches with greasy hands and mocked light-beer drinkers.
That campaign improved sales trends from 1998 until about 2004, and Miller decided to scrap it in late 2005 in favor of a more feminine and upscale positioning starring the brand's "Girl in the Moon" icon. Sales promptly cratered, the campaign was quickly pulled, and Miller and Wieden split.
Miller's VP-content, former Ogilvy & Mather executive Deb Boyda, then tapped Crispin, Porter & Bogusky to create a new High Life Man that would replant the brand on grittier footing. The character they created, a gruff-talking beer truck driver who barges into frou-frou accounts like French bistros and revokes their privileges to sell High Life, immediately boosted sales when he began appearing in ads in Midwest markets late last year.
Popular with distributors
The actor who plays the driver, Windell Middlebrooks, received a standing ovation from Miller distributors at the brewer's spring convention in Las Vegas, and one wholesaler actually bowed before him poolside, in a particularly awkward moment.
Encouraged by the early results, Miller has since taken the "Take Back the High Life" campaign national, meaning media spending on the brand should greatly exceed the $7.8 million the brewer spent on it last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
"Miller High Life is one of the great brands in the beer business having been around for more than 100 years and we are thrilled to work on it," said Mary Baglivo, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, New York. "It's authentic, unpretentious, no BS approach is working and we aren't going to alter that successful strategy, although we will look for ways to expand it further."
In previous years, Miller had spent approximately $17 million on media for the account.