Miller Creates Ads In-House for Lite

TV Spots Position Beer as the 'Ultimate'

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CHICAGO ( -- Desperate to jolt its flagship brand's sagging sales, Miller Brewing Co. is home-brewing ads for Miller Lite.
Miller Lite's sales declined last year.
Miller Lite's sales declined last year.

A Miller spokesman said he couldn't recall the last time the brewer created its own ads. The brand's agency of record is Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, but he said the agency is busy working on a large-scale campaign slated for spring. Miller Lite over the years has worked with a number of agencies, including the Chicago offices of Ogilvy & Mather and Y&R and Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

Debut today
The in-house ads, which make their debuts today during the NCAA's basketball tournament broadcasts, are 15-second spots designed to differentiate Miller Lite from its competitors by dubbing the beer the "Ultimate Light Beer by Design." A press release said the spots will position Miller Light as a "clear choice for those who challenge convention."

The spots boast of Miller Lite having "more taste" and "half the carbs" of Bud Light and being "the fastest growing import light beer" -- a veiled reference to Heineken Premium Light. Both brands grew last year, as did Coors Light (not named in the ads), while Miller Lite sales declined.

Wrong to veer from product
The ads replace the short-lived "GHT" episodic spots from Crispin that set Miller Lite apart from other light beers by noting it was the only brand to misspell the word light. Those ads were intended as a bridge between Crispin's ill-fated "Man Laws" campaign, an attempt to build "social currency" that resulted in sales tanking, and Crispin's next, yet-to-be revealed campaign expected to debut at Miller's distributor conference next month.

In recent speeches, Miller CEO Tom Long has accepted responsibility for the sales results from "Man Laws," saying he was wrong to move the advertising's focus away from the product.

'Back to our core'
Addressing the Beer Business Daily summit recently, Mr. Long said: "Those people who have conviction in the intrinsic goodness of their beer are the folks that win. To be honest, I veered off the path of that this last year. We know what works for Miller Lite. In retrospect when we made that move to Men of the Square Table to elevate the social currency of the brand -- which is important -- we moved off that at exactly the wrong time because as this category gets more crowded and the competitive set gets bigger and bigger, we needed to go back to our core."

So, not surprisingly, the new ads are more beer-centric. "We are taking a 'hard right turn' back to the core essence of Miller Lite, which has always been about differentiating Miller Lite from competitors as a better beer," said Miller Chief Marketing Officer Randy Ransom. "The new ads demonstrate our ability to move with speed and conviction. And we like the flexibility that these simple formats provide to quickly customize our messaging for a variety of mediums."
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