A-B, MILLER TRY TO REHEAT SALES OF ICE BEERS

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More than a year after ice beers entered the U.S. market, slackening demand is prompting some major overhauls of ad campaigns.

In the biggest change, Anheuser-Busch has increased the potency of its ice beer and renamed its brands Bud Ice (from Ice Draft From Budweiser) and Bud Ice Light (from Ice Draft Light).

A-B originally marketed Ice Draft, with an alcohol content of 4.9%, as a Miller Genuine Draft competitor. At the same time, Miller Brewing Co. and other ice beer entrants tried to copy the success of heavier Canadian ice products, which started the trend, by introducing their ice brews with 5.5% alcohol.

But A-B, contending rivals set the potency standard for ice beer, said it will adopt the same alcohol level for its offerings. It will use new bottles with an ice design molded into the glass. A new "Smooth to the extreme" tagline appears in broadcast and print ads from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago.

Miller is updating its advertising, too, using its third campaign for Miller Ice just seven months after its last round of fresh creative. Miller recently switched Miller Ice to the Leap Partnership, Chicago, from Bates USA, New York; just last June, Miller pulled the brand from Leo Burnett USA, Chicago. Leap's creative uses a new "The night is young" theme in TV and print ads.

Ice beers last year came from almost nothing to nearly 5% of industry shipments. At yearend with up to 40 ice products on the market, there were some indications the segment might be fading.

Nielsen North America shows ice beers with a 5.5% market share by volume for the four weeks ended Jan. 21. Miller's Lite Ice led the category with a 1% share, though not by much. Both Lite Ice and Ice Draft From Budweiser, however, were beginning to show some falloff.

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