Dick's lower profile gives lift to Lite ads

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Advertiser: Miller Brewing Co.
Agency: Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis
Ad Review rating: Three stars

See dick. See Dick run.

Uh-oh. See Dick fall. Fall, fall, fall. See Dick, flat on his silly teen-age face.

See if anybody minds. No, no, no. Nobody minds.

Dick, of course, is the fictitious creative director who just happens to share a nickname with a famous sex organ and who shows up in the last half-second of every commercial for Miller Lite.

Isn't that just grand? For 30 years, the gullible and paranoid have believed that art directors manipulate their consumer libidos by hiding penises in their ads and, lo and behold, colloquially speaking, courtesy of Fallon McElligott, here one is.

Maybe "Dick" is a subversive little joke. Maybe it's just a cheap vulgarity. But here's what it has never been: particularly amusing.

That's been the problem with the whole Dick campaign. It's intended as wickedly funny satire on popular culture, highly kitschy High Camp for the supposedly mediawise upperclassmen of GeneratioNext. Unfortunately, for all their offbeat ostentation, the ads haven't been especially funny. Nor have they often made any connection to the product, the category, the consumer or the beer-drinking experience.

Nor, by the way, have they much worked.

Since the campaign began, Lite has enjoyed a 12% increase in supermarket volume and a little better than a half a point in market share. Those numbers look pretty good, until you factor in the 50% increase in ad spending and Miller's heavy discounting of the brand.

In other words, media tonnage and price promotion have bought some share, but there's little evidence of brand-building going on. By way of comparison, during the same period, Bud Light surged 20% in volume and almost a point and a half in share.

So, yes, from the moment "Dick" emerged, Fallon's quintessentially postmodern campaign was obviously pointless, self-indulgent and--from a selling point of view--irredeemable.

Not, however, unsalvageable.

Nobody ever said those Fallon people weren't clever. All they had to do to turn the situation around was lose the Dick, and find the beer. Well, we are pleased to report, they're nearly halfway there.

Oh, that juvenile "Dick" end- frame is still there. And the big autumn "Choose a Cheerleader" promotion is so kitsched up, and so contemptuous of its very sweepstakes self, that it is destined to bomb. But the silly tangerine-colored opening title card and quirky musical signature have taken hold, and--at long last--the campaign seems to have decided to be about beer.

First came the spot called "Movie Theater," about a bored guy trapped at a French chick flick with a bunch of sobbing women, finally brought to tears himself when his bottle of Lite rolls 10 rows beneath the seats and smashes into shards. Now comes "Angel," the best spot in the campaign to date.

The scene is a dance party in heaven: lots of young angels, winged and clad all in white, groovin' to R&B. But suddenly the beer fridge is empty. So three angels look earthward and blow. Down below, a sudden gust fells a tree, causing a beer truck to swerve. Three cases of Lite fall to the road, smashing the bottles--which, to the strains of a harp flourish, float to heaven and fill the fridge. Party resumed.

It takes very little talent to be subversive. It takes a great deal of talent to charm.

Charm. Charm. Charm. See, Dick? Charm.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc. ;

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