MILLER BREWING TALKS TO PM SHOPS ABOUT LITE, MGD: O&M, BURNETT SAID TO BE ASKED FOR IDEAS ON TROUBLED BEER BRANDS

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Miller Brewing Co. is believed to have asked two Philip Morris Cos. agencies to submit ideas for its troubled brands, Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft.

Ogilvy & Mather, New York, is said to be gearing up to do work for the $95 million Miller Lite account currently held by Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, Advertising Age has learned.

The second agency, said to be Chicago's Leo Burnett USA, would possibly submit ideas for Lite or the $60 million MGD business at Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

The discussions between the PM shops and brewer have been held discreetly at the highest management levels. O&M declined comment; calls to Burnett Chairman-CEO Rick Fizdale went unreturned.

A Miller spokeswoman said, "We are continuing to do work with Fallon and Wieden."

One executive said there will be some action on the business within a month.

The PM connection comes as no surprise since three of Miller's new top brass came from the parent. President-CEO John Bowlin held the same post at Kraft Foods International and also worked on the domestic food business, serviced by both O&M and Burnett.

Both Bob Mikulay, Miller senior VP-marketing, and Jim Mortensen, senior VP-sales and distribution, are former tobacco executives at Philip Morris USA.

O&M'S FOOTHOLD

O&M handles, among other Kraft accounts, Post cereals and Maxwell House coffee. Burnett, the lead PM tobacco agency, not only handles food brands, such as salad dressings and Altoids, but a $50 million corporate campaign touting PM's support of the arts.

Also, Burnett's Starcom Worldwide is the media buying agency of record for Miller.

Mr. Bowlin, when he took over for the fired John MacDonough in April, said Fallon and Wieden "will be given every chance to drive us forward." But he did state he was disappointed with some recent campaigns for the brands and Miller had to propel itself out of stagnancy.

FALLON AT WORK

Fallon, which won Miller Lite from Burnett in 1996, currently is working on a fall campaign.

During the Memorial Day holiday, Wieden broke a revised campaign for MGD with the "Put a keg in your hand" tag.

Wieden's work on the brewer's Miller High Life is considered solid. That ad effort has been widely praised and credited with maintaining sales when U.S. brewers are losing ground to imports.

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