MillerCoors, which has struggled to lift Miller Lite from a long-running slump, is turning to the public for fresh ideas to advertise its new retro cans. But if you are interested in pitching ideas, you should leave your bell-bottoms and disco records in the closet.
In a brief posted on crowd-sourcing platform Tongal, the brewer suggests it wants to avoid 1970s imagery in the ads: "If you're thinking about doing a straight 70's homage, cross it off the list. Miller Lite DOES NOT want to be reminded of shag carpets and bell-bottoms -- kind of like how 20 years from now we're all going to be really embarrassed about Dubstep and not want to talk about it."
The packaging, which will hit store shelves in January and run through March, harkens back to the brand's glory days when it debuted in 1975 as the first successful mainstream light beer. While disco might not be allowed, the brewer does not want to avoid the past entirely, saying in the pitch that "Miller Lite wants you to give everybody a history lesson" about how "in 1975, the Miller Brewing Company introduced a light beer that truly changed the course of beer history forever: a low-calorie, less-filling beer that doesn't sacrifice taste or quality."
Reviving Lite is a major priority for MillerCoors. Sales of the brand, which is the fourth-largest beer in the U.S., fell by 3.1% to $1.87 million in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 3, according to IRI, which does not include bars and restaurants. With Tongal, MillerCoors is giving away a total of $45,000 in three steps: "an idea phase, a pitch phase and a video phase." The videos are "intended for digital use on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social-video platforms."
MillerCoors is not outsourcing all of the advertising for the cans, which is expected to represent the brand's largest first-quarter marketing push. Lite agency-of-record Saatchi & Saatchi, New York created TV ads that will debut this Sunday during NFL games. But the spots -- which consist mostly of product shots -- seem a lot more basic than what the brewer is asking the public to create.
The 15-second commercials "are trying to tell the story of Miller Lite being the original lite beer," said MillerCoors spokeswoman Karina Diehl. "With Tongal we are trying to have a little more fun. That is why they are for digital. We know that this will resonate with our consumer."
The Tongal brief offers a rare insight into how the brewer is thinking about Lite, as well as giving a glimpse into the special factors advertisers must consider when creating alcohol ads. Contestants are told that "actors cannot appear intoxicated or allude to being intoxicated," and "no crushing of cans or damage to the Miller Lite logo" is allowed. Children and Santa Claus -- including his elves -- are also prohibited. Moreover, the video "should focus on originality, not poking fun at disco, etc." Said Ms. Diehl: "The main focus is telling our story of being the original light beer. The bellbottom can distract from that main message."