Amid Distributor Concerns, Coors Light Spikes an Ad Campaign

New General Market Effort Being Developed in Time For Summer

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Coors Light Updated Bottle for 2015
Coors Light Updated Bottle for 2015

MillerCoors has scrapped a planned campaign for Coors Light because ads did not go over well with distributors. Instead the brewer is working on a new effort in hopes that it will be ready by June in time for the important summer drinking season.

The stakes are high because Coors Light is the brewer's largest brand and the so-called Silver Bullet has been stuck in a sales slump.

The brand had planned to run a campaign called "The Cold One" by WPP's Cavalry. In an interview in early March, Chief Marketing Officer Andy described it as as a "character-driven" effort that would get heavy digital emphasis. People who have seen the ads described the campaign as being set in the mountains and involving a man who dispensed Rocky Mountain wisdom about Coors Light.

But MillerCoors execs apparently grew concerned about the approach. And rather than showing the full portfolio of work to distributors at a recent annual spring meeting, the brewer opted to show a video montage with pieces of the digital content, according to people familiar with the matter.

That left some wholesalers concerned that the brewer did not have a general market campaign ready. "We all walked away and said now what?" one distributor told Ad Age.

Reporting on the meeting, trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights stated that while "Coors Light Hispanic executions plus some new packaging got favorable responses, [the] absence of a general market campaign was big a omission to everyone Insights talked to."

In a recent email to distributors, Mr. England sought to ease concerns. "We heard your feedback on 'The Cold One' and won't be using this campaign," he wrote. "We need a strong general market campaign and are developing new work." He added that the campaign "will be ready for air in June, in time to provide additional air cover" to new packaging that the brand is rolling out.

As Ad Age reported earlier this month, the new packaging downplays the Silver Bullet's "cold-activation" gimmick in favor of messaging that plays more on the brand's heritage as being "born in the Rockies." The packaging also highlights the brand's 1978 founding year.

The new look is part of a multi-pronged strategy aimed at returning the brand to growth. Coors Light, the nation's second-largest beer, experienced a 3.3% decline in shipments in 2014, according to Beer Marketer's.

The comeback effort includes a campaign targeting young adult drinkers called "reFresh" by multicultural agency Commonground/MGS (and a Spanish version called "reFresca" by Bravo Group), as Ad Age reported earlier in March. "These spots have an energy and insight that strikes a chord with millennial drinkers with an urban mindset that goes far beyond location or race," Mr. England stated in the distributor memo.

Coors Light will also get significantly more spending support. There will be marketing "increases on digital, Latino, urban and local markets," Mr. England said in the memo. He also stated that the brewer is "betting big on national media when it matters most: From April through August, the national media buy for the Coors family of brands is almost 35% higher than the same period last year."

Coors Light spent $138 million on measured media in 2014, according to Kantar Media. Coors Banquet spent $17 million.

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