New ads previewed at Miller's regional distributor meeting in Milwaukee today focus on tweaking the self-proclaimed king of beers. One spot, dubbed "Dalmation," shows a Miller Lite truck pulling up beside A-B's signature dog-topped Clydesdale hitch. The dog stares longingly at the truck -- to a soundtrack of Joe Cocker's "Unchain My Heart" -- and leaps on board just as the light changes.
Another Bartle Bogle ad, "Trucker," which began appearing on TV earlier this month, shows a Bud Light truck unsuccessfully trying to pass a Miller Lite rig.
Miller had tremendous success in 2003 and 2004 with challenger advertising that compared Miller Lite's carbs and taste to Bud Light. Bud Light eventually hit back, and Miller gained market share in the slug fest that followed. A-B marketing executives had said repeatedly that they will not let themselves be dragged into a similar slugfest again.
In any event, the new work from Bartle Bogle suggests Miller CEO Tom Long was sincere when he promised to return to a more combative style of advertising at Miller's annual distributor convention last April. "We're going to jab and jab some more," he said at the time.
The new ads are also a clear departure from the work of the predecessor agency on the Miller Lite brand, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, which produced the 2006 "Man Laws" campaign that showed manly celebrities debating rules of masculine conduct.
Sales tanked under that effort, and Crispin resigned the account in March. Using a mix of leftover Crispin ads and house-made slides reminiscent of a PowerPoint presentation, Miller sales have improved this year.