MILLER DROPS PART OF LAWSUIT AGAINST ANHEUSER-BUSCH

Battle Over 'Queen of Carbs' Claim Won't Be Fought Out in Court

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Describing it as an "unnecessary distraction," Miller Brewing Co. is dropping part of its recently filed lawsuit against Anheuser-Busch. The company today said it would not seek to halt
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Budweiser ads that portray Miller Lite as the "Queen of Carbs."

Three issues
On May 26, Miller, part of London-based SAB Miller, sued Anheuser-Busch for what it alleged were "false, unfair and illegal" marketing activities. Its suit said these included: point-of-sale materials labeling Miller Lite as "owned by South African Breweries"; the defacement of Miller products and point-of-sale materials; and the running of ads describing Miller Lite as the "Queen of Carbs."

Miller now intends to press forward in court with the first two issues but will drop the last.

No comment
No comment on the move was immediately available from Anheuser-Busch.

The ads that triggered the legal fracas were part of Anheuser-Busch's "Unleash the Dawgs" campaign, a multipronged marketing effort launched shortly before Memorial Day to undermine Miller Lite. The campaign opened with a print ad describing Miller Lite as "South African owned" and labeling it the "Queen of Carbs." The campaign followed with ads from Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, that made fun of Miller's "President of Beer" ads -- which were tartly critical of Anheuser-Busch.

Factually wrong
Miller responded by filing suit, charging the Anheuser-Busch ads contained false claims. In particular, it cited point-of-sale materials that said Miller Lite was owned by "South African Breweries." Finding that claim factually wrong, a judge granted Miller's effort to seek an injunction against materials that included that ownership language.

No date has been set for hearings on the continuing portions of the court case.

Miller said it had decided not to continue its protest of the "Queen of Carbs" ads because it had determined that they had not affected its sales. Miller had strong sales over the Memorial Day weekend, according to a statement released by the company's senior vice president for marketing, Bob Mikulay.

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