On Thursday, when Ad Age reached out to Molson Coors about the site, the company declined to comment and instead offered to discuss its recent “Math” campaign, which included a new spot from agency Mischief that poked fun at how AB InBev’s new Bud Light Next product has more calories (80) than Molson Coors’ 64-calorie beer, Miller64.
When Ad Age reached out to AB InBev for comment on the site yesterday, the company did not respond before press time. Ad Age reached out again, for a response to the site being taken down, but AB InBev has not responded to the new development as of midday.
Multiple Molson Coors representatives did not respond to requests for comment today.
The new incident seems to be stirring up tension once again between the two big brewers, recalling the “Corngate” controversy from 2019, when Bud Light poked fun at Molson Coors’ use of corn syrup in Miller Lite and Coors Light in three Super Bowl ads. Molson Coors subsequently filed a lawsuit against its competitor seeking to pull the ads from the airwaves.
The latest flare-up shows that AB InBev did not secure the domain name for Bud Light Next. (On Molson Coors’ part, the Miller64.com website features information about the brewer’s product.)
An ad agency executive with experience working for beer brands suggested AB InBev could have a legal case against Molson Coors, should it be proven to be behind the stunt, because it makes use of the Bud Light name. Still, this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Molson’s defense could be that it engaged in parody and “good-natured teasing.”
Daliah Saper, a lawyer specializing in trademark issues, said, “If it’s not readily obvious that the domain name and its content are intended to be a parody or comparative advertising or some sort of commentary, then there would potentially be claims rooted in tortuous interference or consumer deception laws.” The defense would be to “hide under a First Amendment claim to create a parody.”
As for what effect the stunt might have on consumers, the ad agency executive was skeptical it would do much at all.
“Evidently no one learned anything from the giant embarrassment of ‘Corngate’ where the breweries and marketing people were only talking to each other but using the Super Bowl and hundreds of millions of dollars in media over the year and none of the brands grew and no one cared,” this person said.
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