MARKETER: Miller Brewing Co.
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather, New York
RATING: One and a half stars
After all this--three agency changes, raging controversy, sinking market share, a Rance Crain editorial crusade--here comes the first work from Ogilvy & Mather for Miller Lite and all it turns out to be is beer advertising. Generic beer advertising. Fairly amusing, completely unilluminating, unabashedly sexist beer advertising.
Oh, and the distributors love it. Go figure.
Actually, it's not hard to see why they love it because the new Miller Lite campaign is actually the Bud Light campaign, except with Miller bottles.
The Bud Light campaign, of course, is also generic beer advertising, but Bud Light has been kicking the living daylights out of Miller for 10 years. So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Play to a draw. There's a strategy for you. But why not? The brand has tried every other strategy under the sun. It's been the "Taste's great, less filling" beer (Backer & Spielvogel). It's been the "best beer" ( Leo Burnett USA). It's been the beer with the weird ads ( Fallon McElligott). And it's been the genuine pilsner (ditto).
Meanwhile, Bud Light's strategy has been to be light Bud, and to focus not on the attributes of the product (because why lead with your chin?) but on the attributes of the users. It is advertising for Joe Sixpack about Joe Sixpack. It's about loving sports on TV, hating shopping, avoiding the honey-do list, avoiding honey herself and generally bonding with the guys over junk food and junk drink.
It's "The Man Show," basically, minus the trampoline.
And now, so is the competition.
The style, tone and pacing are so strikingly similar, in fact, that it isn't until you see the product labels that you understand which brand is being advertised.
One spot takes place in an accident ward, where an unfortunate patient is wheeled in with a cervical brace and a plate in his head, through which he receives stray radio signals. His ward mates seize the day by twisting his neck until they get the ball game, whereupon they produce a cooler of Bud Light . . . oops, make that Miller Lite . . . and party down.
This is almost identical to a 2-year-old Bud Light locker room spot, in which football players endure a tirade from the coach, only to crack open the beer the moment he departs.
Another commercial has a bunch of pals bemoaning the lack of action in their favorite bar. One guy observes that rubbing your eyes produces weird op art illusions, so soon all the men are rubbing their eyes, commenting on the optical effect.
And what happens? Are you ready for this?
Two hot, hot, hot babes come in, their huge breasts straining against their tight tops! The guys can't see them because they're playing with their eyes. And the women lose interest, because the only guys in the bar are playing with their eyes. The girls ditch the joint without the guys ever knowing they were there.
Can you stand the incredible irony?! It's, like, right out of O. Henry.
Only with hooters.
Ah, yes. There is a difference between this and the competition after all.
Whereas Bud Light is content to portray guys as superficial slobs utterly content in their own slothful, sports-addicted lives, this campaign insists on trotting out the cheesecake.
Even the responsible-drinking spot is about an adolescent sex fantasy. The poor designated driver doesn't get to enjoy any Miller Lite, but when three totally foxy, foreign chicks with a broken-down car appear needing a lift, he gets to save the day.
This is all the sort of naked sexism that the beer makers supposedly swore off after the Swedish Bikini Team debacle, but evidently the Maxim-izing of sexual culture has somehow liberated advertisers to once again appeal to its customers' inner 13-year-olds.
There's a temptation to coin some sort of socio-anthropological buzzword to explain the phenomenon, but one already exists.
It's called beer advertising.
Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.