BUDWEISER LAUNCHES MAJOR AD OFFENSIVE AGAINST MILLER

Beer War Pits 'King of Beers' Against 'Queen of Carbs'

By Published on .

Most Popular
CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- After months of enduring mocking ads from archrival Miller Brewing Co., Anheuser-Busch is fighting back.
Anheuser-Busch's full-page ad in 'USA Today' showcases a large image of the competitor's product. Click to see larger image of ad.

Related Stories:

> Dec. 8, 2003
MILLER LITE ADS TURN TABLES ON COORS
Low Carb Campaign Credited With Sudden Surge of Sales

> Oct. 29, 2003
MILLER BREWING CHANGES ADVERTISING STRATEGY
Lost Share and New Research Give Rise to a Different Marketing Vision

> Aug. 12, 2003
MILLER BREWING TO CUT 20% OF HEADQUARTERS STAFF
Elimination of 200 Jobs Part of Sweeping Reorganization

> Jan. 14, 2003
MILLER BEER PRESIDENT STEPS DOWN
SAB Exec Norman Adami to Replace John Bowlin at Struggling Brewer

> Oct. 2, 2002
MILLER PROMISES MORE AGGRESSIVE MARKETING
President Tells Wholesalers That Being No. 2 Isn't Acceptable Anymore

> July 9, 2002
SOUTH AFRICAN BREWERIES CLOSES DEAL ON MILLER
Picks Up Struggling Beer Brand From Philip Morris

> July 1, 2002
BEER GIANT SAB WINS APPROVAL FOR MILLER ACQUISITION
Philip Morris Gets $5.6 Billion and Stake in World's 2nd-Largest Brewer

'Queen of Carbs'
The No. 1 brewer today ran an ad in USA Today showing a bottle of Miller Lite above the legend "The Queen of Carbs" and, in smaller type, "South African Owned." The bottom portion of the ads shows a much larger photo of the top of a bottle of Budweiser and text that says, "American brewed since 1876. The King of Beers."

The bottom of the ad reads: "We'll let Miller Lite spend all their time talking about carbs. At Budweiser, we'll continue to spend all our efforts making great beer."

Miller is owned by SABMiller, previously known as South African Breweries.

Distributor broadcast
This is the first shot in what Anheuser-Busch is calling its "Unleash the Dawgs" campaign against Miller Lite. The campaign was described to distributors today during a broadcast on an in-house TV network. The executives on the broadcast were August Busch IV, president of Anheuser-Busch Cos.; Bob Lachky, vice president of brand management and director of global advertising creative; and Mike Owens, vice president of sales, according to a distributor who viewed the broadcast.

According to the distributor, the multi-pronged campaign will include point-of-sale materials positioning Budweiser's recently reformulated sub-premium Natural Light against Miller Lite. Bud's Natural Light, like Miller Lite, has 3.2 grams of carbohydrates.

Other weapons include radio ads featuring the Bud lizards Frankie and Louie. The reptiles make fun of Miller's "President of Beer" ad campaign, though they don't mention it by name.

And there will be more ads positioning Lite as the "Queen of Carbs."

National ads
These efforts were described as tactical, so they won't necessarily be used in all markets, the distributor said. But some elements -- such as today's ad in USA Today -- would be national.

In a statement released today, the company said, "As part of our ongoing communications with our wholesalers, we are unveiling a program [that]... will provide further support to our sales force as we aggressively build on our leadership position in the U.S. beer market."

The executives told distributors Anheuser-Busch had or was preparing TV ads as part of the campaign but didn't provide specifics, the distributor said. Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide, Chicago, has been preparing TV spots that take shots at Miller's foreign ownership.

Miller attack ads
Anheuser-Busch's response comes after months of aggressive Miller attack ads. In a recent one, from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency of Richmond, Va., a woman tells a bottle of Bud it's being dumped in favor of Miller Genuine Draft. The "President of Beer" ads, by Wieden & Kennedy of Portland, Ore., make fun of Bud's "King of Beers" positioning. An ad from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, points out Miller Lite has fewer carbs than Bud Light.

Anheuser-Busch responded with a Bud Light ad pointing out that all light beers are low-carb and consumers should choose on taste. Miller has rebutted with ads saying Miller Lite tastes better.

What makes this all the more distressing for Anheuser-Busch is that sales of Miller Lite -- which has less than half the volume of Bud Light -- are surging while Bud Light sales are slowing down. Anheuser-Busch recently cut prices in some markets to narrow or close price gaps with Miller.

'Desparate tactics'
A memo from Mr. Owens to Anheuser-Busch's distributors about today's broadcast charged Miller with using "desperate tactics" and said that "it's time to show Miller the power of the Anheuser-Busch team."

"They are running negative advertising in an effort to unseat ... Budweiser and Bud Light," the memo said. "This isn't the first time this market follower has tried to grab momentum and talk value by taking swings at the leader."

In this article: