MillerCoors Distributors Nix Planned Leinenkugel's Campaign

Quirky 'Leinie Side of Life' Spots Will Not Air Due to Negative Wholesaler Feedback

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MillerCoors is pulling a planned campaign for Leinenkugel's because the brewer's distributors did not like the ads.

The campaign by Venables Bell & Partners touted the "Leinie Side of Life" and plugged the brew as "German-style beer, crafted with the spirit of Wisconsin." The ads were quirky and attention-grabbing. One spot (above) showed friends sitting around a campfire belting out a pretty unique cover of Boston's "More Than a Feeling."

But the approach was vetoed by MillerCoors distributors, who recently viewed the ads at a meeting.

Distributors "told us that while the 'Leinie Side of Life' may be a solid platform and tagline, the creative fell short of [their] expectations," Scott Whitley, president of MillerCoors' Tenth and Blake craft and import division, said in an internal memo shared with Ad Age. "Many of [them] told me it was too big of a departure from where we've been, and that we need to course correct, elevating the proud heritage of this legendary brewing family and its iconic brands."

The brewer will instead create ads from a "Leinenkugel's Manifesto" film that was shown at the meeting, according to the memo. The film highlights the history and roots of Leinenkugel's, according to a description provided by a MillerCoors spokesman. Venables Bell & Partners, which won the Leinenkugel's account last year, will remain on the brand and create the new ads, according to the spokesman.

Agency execs could not immediately be reached for comment.

"The ads had a tone that were too much of a departure from the brand, and did not focus on what makes Leinenkugel's, and its beers, so loved," the spokesman said. "We're going to put our best work forward to ensure that the history and heritage of Leinenkugel's remain the focus of the creative."

One distributor told Ad Age in email that "I personally liked the spots" but "I did hear a few comments about some people not that excited about them."

Among the changes in the "Leine's Side of Life" spots is that they did not include members of the Leinenkugel family, whose ancestors founded the Leinenkugel brewery in 1867 in Chippewa Falls, Wis. Dick, Jake and John Leinenkugel had frequently appeared in ads, including this one below that ran last year.

Not every element of the new campaign is being shelved. Mr. Whitley stated in the memo that "we will move forward with the well-received 'Leinie Side Chats' digital series, featuring the Leinenkugel family, as planned."

It is not unprecedented for MillerCoors to change campaigns before they go to market based on wholesaler feedback. The brewer last year spiked a planned campaign for Coors Light in part because of negative distributor feedback. The agency on that campaign, WPP's Cavalry, later lost the account.

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