STROH'S TOUTS LIGHT BEER TASTE: OLD MILWAUKEE GETS NEW SPOT

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Stroh Brewing Co. will break an estimated $5 million effort next month emphasizing the taste of Old Milwaukee Light-a brand largely unadvertised the last few years.

The spot, slated to run during auto racing and National Basketball Association broadcasts on network and cable TV, breaks during the third week of February.

W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., is the agency.

The new commercial is similar to the one Stroh started airing in late '96 for regular Old Milwaukee, in which a person trolling the Internet pulls a cold beer out of his computer monitor.

In the latest spot-which also mentions Old Milwaukee-the surfer receives an e-mail about Old Milwaukee Light winning the gold medal for best American-style light lager at the '97 Great American Beer Festival.

KEEP MOMENTUM GOING

"We want to keep the momentum going," said Kevin Singer, Old Milwaukee brand manager.

Thanks partly to TV support, Stroh has been able to slow the sales decline of Old Milwaukee. According to Beer Marketer's Insights, sales fell about 4%, to 3.2 million barrels, in 1997 after dropping 8.9% the prior year.

"There's definitely been an improvement," said Benj Steinman, associate publisher of the newsletter.

Last year's sales figures for Old Milwaukee Light weren't available, but in '96 sales fell 7% to 1 million barrels.

Overall, sales of Stroh brands slipped 10.9%, to 15.9 million barrels, last year, according to the newsletter; market share fell a percentage point to 7.9%.

SPOTS IN SPORTS

Stroh is continuing to cluster its Old Milwaukee spots around sports programming.

From Feb. 2 through May 24, the brewer plans a 175-spot schedule-a relatively big buy for the brewer. About 140 of the slots are tied to Nascar races and the Old Milwaukee Race for the Taste Heat on network and cable TV, according to a wholesaler.

"Racing has the perfect demographics for beer and specifically Old Milwaukee," Mr. Singer said.

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