MCKENZIES ENLISTED TO HELP MOLSON ICE: MILLER EXTENDS CANADIAN DUO'S WORK TO ADS FOR STRUGGLING BEER; BOOSTS $$

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Miller Brewing Co. is hoping two pitchmen from the Great White North can lift sales of sagging Canadian beer import Molson Ice.

The brewer in 1998 plans to support the once-hot brand with ads starring the Canadian characters Bob and Doug McKenzie -- played by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis -- who already have pitched Molson Golden, Molson Canadian and Molson Light.

GRUNGE IS GONE

Miller is jettisoning a 3-year-old Molson Ice campaign featuring grungy ads inhabited by hip, urban young adults out on the town.

"Our strongest equity is our Canadian heritage and roots, so we are going to go back to that in a big way," said Russ Schleiben, senior brand manager-Molson brands. Y&R Advertising, New York, is the agency.

The Molson brands are imported by Molson USA, a partly owned subsidiary of Miller. Miller last month agreed to sell minority stakes in Molson USA to Canada's Molson Cos. and Australia's Foster's Brewing Group. It also agreed to sell its 20% stake in Molson Breweries to the two companies.

MORE SUPPORT THAN GOLDEN

Molson Ice will be receiving marginally more support than Molson Golden, Mr. Schleiben said. Ads featuring the beer-loving brothers -- who first appeared on the 1980s satirical TV show "SCTV" -- will run on national cable, spot TV, outdoor and radio.

The brewer is trying to craft a common tagline for all the Molson brands, similar to how "Miller time" appears in both Lite and Miller Genuine Draft ads.

SPENDING AKIN TO '97

Spending behind the Molson brands will be consistent with '97 support, which has been reduced from previous levels as Miller concentrates on its core brands, Mr. Schleiben said. Miller put $3.9 million behind the various Molson labels in the first six months of 1997, down 56.2% from the year-earlier period, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Molson Ice has taken the biggest hit. The brewer supported the brand with $16.9 million in 1995, but it spent only $1.1 million on the brand during the first six months of 1997, down 79.2% from the year-earlier period.

Sales have been on a skid as well, falling 8.8% during 1996 to 11.9 million cases, according to Impact. During the 52 weeks ended Nov. 2, supermarket sales

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