Advertiser: Miller Brewing Co.
Agency: J. Walter Thompson, Chicago
Ad Review rating: Half star
For the past seven years, Miller Brewing Co. hasn't been able to get out of its own way, making every wrong bet on its Lite franchise and similarly squandering the once-promising Miller Genuine Draft. It has been painful to witness; now, it's simply disgusting.
In a desperate attempt to regain traction somewhere-anywhere-Miller and J. Walter Thompson, Chicago, have spent the past year shamelessly and vulgarly pandering to the crudest common denominator.
Employing the tortured theme, "Never miss a genuine [get it?] opportunity," the agency has filmed a series of subadolescent sex fantasies, such as a motel tete a tete with a foxy fleeing "Bombshell Bandit." Just as the guy sees her picture on the TV news bulletin, she comes out of the bathroom in her underwear. Hmmm. What to do?
By all means, don't pass up a genuine opportunity to get AIDS while being an accessory after the fact to a string of felonies.
Another shows a guy with his date in his apartment. The pounding bass of the stereo from a party next door has the whole place vibrating-including the bed. Mr. Wink-Wink slyly shows her the situation. She's all aboard, because, after all, the mattress is pre-bouncing for her convenience.
The situations are supposed to be sexy, which is certainly a legitimate path to follow. These, however, are just crudely, adolescently sexual-which isn't even close to the same thing
But now comes the capper: a young guy headed for the apartment-house laundry with a basket of clothes and two MGDs. There he encounters, as of course you'd expect, a gorgeous neighbor in the midst of stripping to her bra and panties-you know, as women always do in public places. She stuffs her washer full, so he offers her a beer and the unused space in his machine. She replies by tossing in her bra.
The agency's rationalization for this puerile crap is the state of the contemporary retro-cheesecake culture, Victoria's worst-kept secret, the Maxim-ization of America. If "The Man Show" can wallow in men's basest impulses JWT wonders why beer advertising aimed at the very same audience shouldn't try the very same thing.
Because it's childish. Because it's sleazy. Because it's stupid. Because it's sexist (and, therefore, even if it were effective, bad conduct). But, most of all: because it says not one single thing to commend Miller Genuine Draft. Let us suppose for a moment that some substantial percentage of the core market lonesomely rattles the headboard imagining the laundry-room scenario. God bless 'em, those naughty boys. Maybe we should be grateful there's no 20 Muleteam Borax in their fantasy.
But how do you get from there to "buy Miller Genuine Draft"?
Well, you don't. This campaign not only makes no attempt to shed light on the product, it does nothing to show a special understanding of the consumer. Heineken, for instance, comically dramatizes the dynamics of public beer drinking and has every situation pegged dead-on. Bud Light captures funny slices of married life to forge a bond with Joe Sixpack, who can then identify with the beer that identifies with him.
Soft porn, on the other hand, is not exactly an expression of empathy.
Some positioning: "Wrap your hairy palm around an MGD!"
Complicating matters, Miller's burlesque of strippers and pratfalls comes at a time when rival Anheuser-Busch seemingly can do no wrong. On quality, on heritage, on male bonding, on coolness, on ethnicity, on humor, on working-class bona fides, Budweiser is waging one of the great multifront campaigns in advertising history. Maybe this is what prompted JWT to take such a drastic leap to the cultural bottom.
But Miller Genuine Draft will not be restored to its former glory by televising letters to Penthouse. It can succeed only by rediscovering its unique, intrinsic qualities (if the differentiating cold-brewing process, vs. pasteurization, has thus far failed to impress consumers, the failure is that of the agencies) or by offering consumers a psychic benefit of being seen with the brand.
Coolness, obviously, is the benefit most sought after. Please note, though, that there is nothing cool about having all of your sex in the lock-the-bathroom-door recesses of your mind's eye.
Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.