MillerCoors says Miller Lite still tastes great. And it's still less filling.
But these two attributes are a tougher sell in an age where superlow-calorie beers have stolen some of the less-filling message and craft beers are crowding in on taste. And that , in a nutshell, is why Lite is reviving the Miller Time tagline, which is more about sociability and less about the beer itself.
"Miller Lite really is about real beer and real friends, and we believe that Miller Time captures that whole idea of real friends coming together over real beer," MillerCoors Exec VP-Chief Marketing Officer Andy England said today in an interview, discussing the new campaign for the first time since Ad Age first reported it earlier this month.
In recent years, the brand has talked mostly about taste with its "Man Up" campaign by DraftFCB, which mocked guys who chose other brands. MillerCoors is changing course in hopes of lifting Lite from a prolonged slump. The TV ads premiering tonight are by Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, which recently took on Lite in addition to other MillerCoors brands such as Miller64 and Miller High Life.
The initial ads (watch below) seek to redefine Miller Time for millennial drinkers. Spots scheduled for later release will include more humor, including some character-driven spots.
DraftFCB remains on the brand, with the Miller Time work split about evenly between the two agencies. Asked if Lite will stick to a two-agency model long-term, Mr. England said: "It's certainly not something we've come to any decisions on." He added: "Both agencies have done a terrific job ... on this new work and that makes my job both delightful and difficult. ... What's a sustainable model? We'll work that out over time."
MillerCoors first introduced Miller Time in the 1970s for High Life, using it again on Miller Lite in 1997 and 2002. Although the brand is returning to the classic line, Mr. England said the brewer is "reinventing it."
"If you think about what Miller Time used to mean ... it was very much about work-reward. This is an evolution," he said. "It's really about when real beer and real friends get together, it's Miller Time . We're evolving what it means but leveraging the fact that it's just a great saying."
Lite remains the U.S. fourth-biggest beer brand, but shipments dropped by 4.3% and market share declined to 7.2% from 7.4% last year, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. DraftFCB won the account in 2009 and "Man Up" started in 2010. Critics said the campaign relied too much on sophomoric humor. Supporters of such an approach have pointed out that over-the-top comedy has long worked with beer's target audience of young male adults.
Asked to describe the new campaign, Mr. England said it was "entirely different." He called it "contemporary, celebratory and inclusive."