Miller's beleaguered MGD taps Martin Agency for help

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Faced with an 11% plunge in volume for Miller Genuine Draft last year, Miller Brewing Co. has added a new agency to the brand's creative roster: The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

"We're working hard at crafting a position for this brand," said Victor Rutstein, director-brand development of Miller Trademark at the brewer. "It's another way of looking at great resources to get creative output. We now feel we can tap multiple agencies ... to demonstrate the positioning."

That Miller has added another creative arrow to its quiver demonstrates how high the stakes are for MGD, which SABMiller has earmarked as a potential global brand. But it first has to get its house in order domestically.

Its U.S. falloff appears to be accelerating. After MGD volume slid 10.7% in 2003, according to A.C. Nielsen data reported by Citigroup Smith Barney, it dropped 12.1% in the fourth quarter of 2003. In December alone, volume sunk 17.4%.

"Miller Genuine Draft is underperforming relative to its category," said a spokeswoman. "That's why we're doing all of this work to get it to perform as well or rightly better than the category."

striking a balance

Mr. Rutstein said the brewer and its agencies have been focused on "getting the balance right between the extrinsic and intrinsic proposition" for MGD. Gaining its balance has been a challenge for Miller, which has had a revolving door of campaigns in recent years.

"We're putting Miller Genuine Draft through the same discipline and rigor that we took Miller Lite through late last summer," said the spokeswoman.

MGD's most recent effort is a spot via Ogilvy & Mather's Chicago office called "Mirror, Mirror" that focuses more on the intrinsic properties of the brand's cold-filtering benefits than the earlier "filter out what you don't need" campaign, first developed by former roster shop and WPP Group sibling J. Walter Thompson.

Miller approached Martin based on its reputation and what Mr. Rutstein called tangential contact in the past. Martin also handles advertising for Nascar, of which Miller is a beer sponsor. Martin, part of Interpublic Group of Cos., referred calls for comment to Miller. The SABMiller unit expects executions from roster shops to break next month and Martin work to break in early spring.

Mr. Rutstein said the addition of Martin doesn't signal any weakness in the work from other roster shops, Ogilvy, New York and Chicago and Y&R, Chicago; and independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.

"All of our agencies' fingerprints are all over our work, which is somewhat unique in its collaborative nature," said Mr. Rutstein. Whether an agency produced the final advertising or not, "it can say `I had a piece of that strategic work."'

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