The 30-second spot-featuring the Barechest Men, male models from a popular Bay area calendar, frolicking by a backyard pool, playing volleyball and quaffing Miller Genuine Draft-was to begin airing tonight on "QTV's Xposure Program," a San Francisco-based cable TV show that focuses on gays.
MUST FOLLOW 'PROPER CHANNELS'
The spot was to run for at least a month and possibly through the end of the year, according to executives at Miller's Pleasanton, Calif., office.
But a spokesman at Miller headquarters later said the spot was in the development stages only and had not been approved, as he said is required for all local marketing initiatives.
"We are exploring different options regarding placement of this promotional spot as well as reviewing it and making sure it fits with our marketing programs," he said. "This one currently is going through the proper channels. . . . It is part of a promotion. It has not been approved. Period. End of story."
Although the spot carries MGD's general-market strategy of likening its bottled brew to tap beer, MGD ad agency Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., had no role in the spot, said David Fisch, marketing associate with Miller in Pleasanton.
A FIRST OUTING
This would have been Miller's first ad on "QTV's Xposure Pro-gram," according to series producer Rahn Fudge.
The commercial is representative of attempts by domestic brewers, stymied by stagnant sales, to boost revenues. It also would have one-upped rival Anheuser-Busch, which in mid-April ran a Bud Light ad in gay magazines that showed two men holding hands and sparked much talk.
COURTING THE COMMUNITY
Beer marketers, along with Seagram Americas, Bacardi-Martini USA and a growing number of other general marketers, have been actively courting gays through sponsorship of local events and limited print advertising. But the MGD spot would have been a turning point, observers said, since it would mark the beer industry's first TV spot specifically aimed at gays.
"The gay community has a lot of money. It's single men with no responsibility, two good incomes in the house. Miller realizes that," said Chris Amburn, a San Francisco-based marketing rep for Miller at On-Premis Management, which promotes Miller products in Bay area bars.
It was Mr. Amburn who last year came up with the idea for the commercial.
Mr. Fisch said the TV spot is part of long-running marketing campaign in the gay community, which includes marching in gay pride parades, donating to AIDS charities, and hiring people to visit bars and promote Miller brands.
"We have a large gay community out here, and not to market to that segment would be stupid," he said. "The gay community is very social. A lot of socializing takes place in bars. If you go into gay bars on Monday night, they're busy. If you go into a bar on Tuesday night, [it's] busy. It's not just a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night crowd."
Gay consumers tend to be extremely loyal when they find companies willing to court them. The Simmons Gay & Lesbian Market Study in 1996, for example, surveyed 3,900 homosexuals and, of those, 88% said they would "go out of their way" to buy from marketers that advertised to them.
"[Marketers] may take some heat from the religious right [for targeting gays in ads], but they will see an awful lot of support from the gay community," said