If you've got the time, Miller High Life -- once again -- has the beer. The classic slogan, which hasn't been used since the late 1970s, is coming to life again as part of a TV campaign aimed at reclaiming the economy brew's status as a quality beer for common folks.
Two 15-second ads debuting on Tuesday use the original version of the slogan that debuted in 1971. The vintage-looking spots are by Philadelphia-based Quaker City Mercantile, which took over High Life creative from Leo Burnett earlier this year.
"High Life offers quality for the everyman in a way that is unfortunately rare in today's world," MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer David Kroll stated in a memo to distributors sent on Monday previewing the ads. "However, it has not always been depicted or perceived this way. The goal of our campaign is to re-introduce High Life with the pride and self-respect it merits. In essence, we're re-booting the story of the brand."
The reboot comes with a significant new investment. Spending on the brand in December will jump 135% compared with last December, Ryan Marek, director of economy brands at Miller High Life, said in an interview. MillerCoors spent $10.7 million in measured media on High Life in all of 2015, according to Kantar Media.
The investment comes as MillerCoors seeks new growth from its economy beer portfolio. That is a key plank in the brewer's larger strategy of generating total beer volume growth by 2019. In the third quarter, MillerCoors reported that its total sales-to-retail volume decreased 4%. The brewer's economy portfolio decreased "mid-single digits," driven by a "low-single-digit decline" of Miller High Life, MillerCoors parent company Molson Coors reported. However, High Life has shown signs of sales life of late. Case volume was up 5.8% in the four weeks ending Nov. 12, according to Nielsen data cited to Ad Age by a MillerCoors spokesman.
The new ads replace Leo Burnett's "I am Rich" campaign. The effort sought to give High Life a hipster feel with ads that use ironic lines juxtaposing wealthy terms with common-man living. While the strategy stuck with the brew's long-running value positioning, the ads might have tried just a little too hard to look cool.
The "I am Rich" campaign taught MillerCoors executives that "you need not act like a millennial to appeal to a millennial," Mr. Marek said. "This is a lesson a lot of brands are learning within beer and across a lot of other categories as well. You have to be authentic. You have to be true to yourself. Because people sniff through the bullshit." He said that because MillerCoors is proud of High Life's credentials, "it's a really easy job to do. You celebrate your product. You celebrate your heritage. You celebrate the values the brand stands for."
The "If You've Got The Time, We've Got The Beer" jingle was written by legendary McCann Erickson adman Bill Backer, who died earlier this year. Mr. Backer was also behind classics such as Coca-Cola's "Hilltop" commercial of 1971.
The High Life slogan was part of the "Miller Time" campaign that launched in 1971 by McCann that helped usher in the work-hard, play-hard mentality of beer advertising. The original High Life spots showed men laboring -- like digging for clams in the spot below -- before ending the day with a few beers.
The hard-working men are absent in the new ads, which make the beer itself the star with bottle close-ups. The old spots "may have worked really well at the time [but] our thinking on the beer category has evolved," Mr. Marek said.
"We've certainly pivoted away from being male-centric," he said. "What we are really chasing after here is this belief that we uphold quality for the everyman -- that you need not spend a lot to enjoy the finer things in life." He added: "For us, that is a shared value that transcends gender, transcends age, transcends other demographics and resonates across a broad population."