The contrast between those numbers and the generally incremental
gains the brand has been posting in recent months makes it clear
that the hubbub surrounding the brewer's one-second Super Bowl ads
drove the surge. Not bad, considering the ads didn't even
run in many large markets -- including New York, Chicago and
Los Angeles -- because NBC directed its owned and operated stations
not to run them.
"One of the big things for us [in making the ads] was that we
thought we could sell more beer," said High Life Brand Manager
Kevin Oglesby. "We definitely sold more beer."
Miller announced plans to air the ads -- and placed a bunch of
them online -- on Jan. 20. The spots' inherent critique of spending
so lavishly on advertising in a recession -- "Paying $3 million for
a 30-second commercial makes as much sense as putting sauerkraut on
a donut," a promotional website said -- drew national notice,
including coverage in USA Today and other major media outlets.
Not a jab?
Many observers naturally assumed that barb was aimed at Miller's
traditional foil, Anheuser-Busch, which boasted 4 minutes and 30
seconds of ad time during the game. But Miller executives insist
the ads were merely an attempt to broadcast the brand's
value-oriented sensibility and not a shot at A-B or anyone
NBC, however, wasn't buying it. The Super Bowl network
apparently viewed the ads as disparaging to advertisers willing to
pay up for the game during a year when fewer were and directed its
owned and operated affiliates not to run the commercials, which
were set to run via spot buys all over the country. (A-B is the
official malt-beverage sponsor of the Super Bowl broadcast and, as
such, is the only beer advertiser allowed to make national buys
during the game.)
As a result, millions of fans in major markets missed seeing the
ads they'd read about beforehand. But that development doesn't seem
to have hurt sales, considering the 8.6% gain in the week following
the Super Bowl was among the highest the brand has registered in
two years, according to Nielsen.
The one-second ad still managed to run in more than 100 markets
nationwide. Created by Saatchi &
Saatchi, the ad featured the populist beer-truck driver played
by actor Windell Middlebrooks quickly shouting the words "High
Mr. Middlebrooks' character first appeared in 2007 spots created
by High Life's former agency, Crispin, Porter & Bogusky. In
those, he was seen confiscating the brand from French bistros and
gourmet grocers. Crispin lost the account when it resigned the
Miller business later that year, but Saatchi kept Mr. Middlebrooks
and evolved the character further. In one recent spot, he barges
into a ballpark luxury suite, demands to know what the score is and
confiscates the beer after none of the clueless suits in the suite
can tell him.
High Life sales, which fell four straight years until the
introduction of the campaign, have been generally stronger since.
"Clearly the campaign is a cornerstone in this turnaround," Mr.
Oglesby said. "Our positioning rings even more true right now in