Miller breaks ad effort for unbreakable bottles

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Miller Brewing Co. this week launches the first nationwide spot for its plastic bottles, three months later than originally intended because demand for the new bottles outstripped supply.

Although Miller is marketing its Icehouse, Miller Genuine Draft and Lite beers in plastic bottles, the initial 30-second spot, from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, supports only Lite. The spot -- and possibly more to come in support of the brews in plastic bottles -- will run in sports programming on broadcast and network cable TV, said Rich Lalley, Miller's director of new-business development and digital marketing.


The country's No. 2 brewer launched 16- and 20-ounce plastic bottles nationally in March. They initially were aimed at sports stadiums, music venues and outdoor areas where glass bottles are not permitted, but Miller executives said the plastic containers have been so successful they expanded the target to the retail trade.

The new spot is part of Ogilvy's "Grab a Miller Lite. It's Miller Time" campaign. In it, a man is hesitant to toss a Lite to a klutzy buddy, only to have it fumbled by the woman to whom the friend was talking. The commercial actually ran for two days in June, but a Miller spokesman said the brewer pulled the ad until its plastic supplier, Owens-Illinois, could meet demand. Owens did not return a call for comment by press time.

Miller is the first U.S. brewer to roll out plastic bottles. No. 1 Anheuser-Busch is considering plastic after pulling back on an earlier test, which the company said piqued limited consumer interest. No. 3 Coors Brewing Co. also is evaluating prospects for using plastic.


Plastic, which costs more to produce than glass or cans, keeps beer as cold as glass and colder than cans, said Miller, which sells its plastic-bottle brews at a 10% premium. "It was a real technological breakthrough that allowed the beer to be sold in plastic and to maintain the shelf life," Mr. Lalley said, adding that previous efforts in plastic let oxygen seep in, leaving the beer tasting like morning-after keg brew.

Plastic bottles first began testing in 1998 in the South, which remains their best market. Miller has run radio and print ads for the plastic bottle Lite, from Ogilvy; for Icehouse, via Square One, Dallas; and for Miller Genuine Draft, created by J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago.

Distributors say stadium sales are good, but retail receipts have been mixed. Southern wholesalers say sales are good while northern distributors say consumers are hesitant to pay $1 per bottle.

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