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MILLER PICKS GMR TO HANDLE EVENT MARKETING

Upshot, Frankel Get Promotions Account for Lite, MGD

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CHICAGO (Adage.com) -- Miller Brewing Co. today said incumbent GMR Marketing will handle event marketing for its top selling Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft brands, concluding a review of its so-called below-the-line marketing agencies.
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New Berlin, Wisc.-based GMR, part of Omnicom Group, beat out WPP Group's Wunderman, Chicago, and Aegis Group's Velocity Sports & Entertainment, Wilton, Conn., for the assignment.

Promotions roster
On the promotions front, Miller picked independent agency Upshot and Frankel, part of Publicis Groupe's Arc Worldwide, to handle Lite and Genuine Draft. Both agencies are based in Chicago.

Miller, a unit of London-based SABMiller, is planning to invest more money in promotions and event marketing efforts for its lead brands. The promotions budget has been estimated at $165 million; event marketing at $75 million, largely for concerts.

Miller increasingly is going beyond TV advertising to reach 20-somethings. It's also trying to roll back inroads made by spirits marketers that have long emphasized promotion and taken sales from beer at bars and other nightspots.

Indeed, Anheuser-Busch has said it too plans to increase spending on promotions.

"People are really seeing the impact of what having a one-to-one contact with consumers can have," said Michael Hand, senior brand manager for Miller promotions.

On-premise taste challenges
Miller has stepped up promotional activity over the past 12 months –- notably the on-premise taste challenge pitting Miller brews against Anheuser-Busch brands -– and will ramp up further over the next six to 12 months, Mr. Hand said.

Miller didn't disclose spending on events and promotions but an executive familiar with the marketer said it is commensurate with ad spending. Miller spent more than $200 million on the brands during through the first 10 months of 2004, according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence.

Losing out in the promotion review are Interpublic Group of Cos.' Zipatoni, St. Louis, and Omnicom's the Promotion Network, Dallas. Both shops have handled other Miller brands on a project basis. It remains to be seen whether that will continue, Mr. Hand said.

Latest round of TV ads
But that doesn't mean Miller is halting its traditional ad efforts. The brewer is stepping up its fight with rival Anheuser-Busch TV spots touting taste-test results showing a majority of Bud Light drinkers said Miller Lite had more taste. The TV spots, handled by roster agency Ogilvy & Mather, New York, part of WPP, will be complemented by radio and print ads and in-store promotional materials, Miller said in a release. The tag: "Taste for yourself."

The work is a continuation of Miller campaigns that take shots at the No. 1 brewer. Tom Pirko, president of the consultancy BevMark LLC, says the tack makes sense for a challenger like No. 2 Miller. “They need to pound and pound,” the message, says Mr. Pirko. He likened the effort to PepsiCo.’s tweaking of Coca Cola.

Miller has been hammering away at A-B for months, including spots that point out Miller Lite has half the carbs of Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch has responded with ads saying all light beers are low in carbs so consumers should choose on taste.

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