Garfield's AdReview: Miller Lite's 'Dominoes' is good cinema, bad beer seller

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BIG BRO: Hey, Bobby, there's a commercial you've gotta see. It's absolutely perfect at everything except what it's trying to do.

AD REVIEW: Ah. "Dominoes." Miller Lite. Right?

BIG BRO: Exactly!

AD REVIEW: Pretty cool.

BIG BRO: Yep.

AD REVIEW: Make ya thirsty?

BIG BRO: Nope.

Nope. The falling dominoes spot from Young & Rubicam, Chicago, is many things. It is a fabulous piece of filmmaking-the most captivating since Honda's "Cog" spot in the U.K. and "Sheet Metal" from Saturn. It's a welcome departure from the "Catfight" disgrace. And it's a perfect articulation of a certain familiar strategy: the "different drummer" approach embraced over the years by Saab, Dr Pepper, Camel filters, Apple computers and others.

It just happens to be-as our elder sibling immediately understood-a terrible way to advertise Miller Lite.

All right. Maybe not terrible. The commercial is, indeed, extremely cool. We see hundreds of extras fall onto one another and topple like dominoes until, finally, the chain having snaked into a barroom, one alert dude steps out of the way and orders a Miller Lite.

"For people who want to make their own choice," the voice over says.

Get it? Don't be a conformist. Don't follow the herd. Be your own man. It's Apple's 1985 "Lemmings" spot, basically, minus the cliff.

But the dominoes effect is remarkable; it's a hoot to try to figure out how they did it. And, yes, just plain coolness is not unimportant in this category. And, yes, the ad certainly does scream: "If you don't want to be like everyone else, drink Miller Lite."

But, umm, is that what Miller Lite should be screaming?

Of course not.

The tagline is "Good call," as if ordering Miller Lite instead of Sam Adams, or Pilsner Urquel or Rolling Rock suggests some sort of rare urbanity. Apart from the fact that the notion is silly on the face of it (ever tasted Miller Lite?), to present this struggling megabrand as some sort of bastard stepchild shunned by all but the preternaturally self-assured is a strategic blunder of the first order.

"Drink us, because nobody else does" is not a positioning. It is a surrender, destined not to elevate Lite but only to further marginalize it.

Future spots are said to be more focused on actual attributes, such as low carb content. But so what? Why isn't this spot more focused on actual attributes? Why, after years of squandered money, wasted breath and lost market share, would Miller say anything that doesn't focus on actual attributes? We have no doubt that the creative team that gave us "Dominoes" will come up with many new ways to make a visual and comic splash, and maybe those will harvest as many awards-show trophies as this one will.

But, for crying out loud, Miller Brewing Co. doesn't need trophies and it doesn't need to make a splash. It needs to make a point, and to stick with it until the point sticks with the consumer.

AD REVIEW: You still on the South Beach diet?

BIG BRO: Uh huh.

AD REVIEW: Lite has half the carbs of Bud Light.

BIG BRO: Really?

Miller Lite

Young & Rubicam, Chicago

Ad Review Rating: 2.5 stars

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