Miller Lite is crashing Bud Light's "Dilly Dilly" kingdom with two new ads that escalate the ongoing marketing war between MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev.
One of the spots begins with what appears to be final scene of Bud Light's "Game of Thrones" Super Bowl ad, in which its Bud Knight character was slayed. But in Miller Lite's version, the ad cuts to the real world, and the actor playing the Knight grabs a Miller Lite, not a Bud Light, from a hospitality tent. The kicker: "In the real world more taste is what matters," states on-screen text. "More taste and half the carbs of Bud Light."
The other spot mock's Bud Light's kingdom as "Ye Old Bud Light Fantasy Land." In a fictional ad shoot, a snow machine malfunctions, and the actors once again choose Miller Lite over Bud Light.
The spots, by DDB Chicago, will run during March Madness and, according to a corporate blog post, be backed by "Miller Lite's highest two-week media investment of the year."
Bud Light first began attacking Coors Light and Miller Lite with three Super Bowl ads pointing out that the brews use corn syrup. That set of what has become known as "corngate." In defending its use of corn syrup in the brewing process, MillerCoors has rallied support from corn growers, while AB InBev has repeatedly stated that it is simply trying to call for more ingredient transparency.
Miller Lite and DDB filmed the newest spots in Eastern Europe about two weeks ago and hurried them through the editing process to have them ready for March Madness. Responding with speed is a key strategy pushed by MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Michelle St. Jacques, a former Kraft Heinz exec whose first official day on the job at the brewer was the day after Bud Light's Super Bowl ads aired.
"You need to move at the speed of culture, the speed of what is happening in the real world," she said in an an interview Wednesday. "We can't be in a place where we're not participating in moments that make sense for our brand to be participating in."
But Bud Light was quick to respond. It released an ad Wednesday morning on YouTube starring its king character. The ad was made a while ago because AB InBev anticipated MillerCoors' move, an AB InBev spokesman confirmed to Ad Age. "When we launched this campaign, we wanted to be prepared for anything the competition could do," he said in an email. "We've had this spot ready for a while."
In a statement, Bud Light VP of marketing Andy Goeler said: "In the real world, people want to know what's in their beer. We hope MillerCoors is also planning to imitate us by adding ingredient labels to their packaging. It's good for the consumer and the right thing for the beer industry too. Our focus on transparency has always been motivated by consumers, and Bud Light is going to continue to push transparency forward and give them what they demand."
Miller Lite's ads appear to be an attempt to shift the discussion away from corn syrup and back to Miller Lite's long-time positioning of having fewer carbs than Bud Light. "We didn't pick this fight," MillerCoors Chief Communications Officer Pete Marino said. But "we are going to continue to stand up for our brands and pivot to a message of what our brands stand for."
But as beer trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights pointed out today, both brands continue to decline. Bud Light shipments fell 6.7 percent last year, while Miller Lite was down 2.8 percent. In the four weeks ending March 9, Bud Light sales fell 9 percent, while Miller Lite was down 2.8 percent, according to Nielsen figures cited by Beer Marketer's.
"Will all this sturm and drang re ingredients and taste change the trajectory of either brand?" Beer Marketer's asked.