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In May 1994, Rich Lalley got a call from his boss, Miller Brewing Co. VP-International Dick Strup. He had spotted an interesting campaign for a Canadian beer from Miller's partner Molson Breweries.

"He asked me if it made sense in the U.S., and if so, how to do it," says Mr. Lalley, 39, Miller's director of new-business development at the time.

The ads that so captivated the Miller executives were created by BBDO Worldwide, Toronto, and featured Oscar-winning actor Tommy Lee Jones as the voice of a wayward dog.

"I thought the advertising campaign was as good I had ever seen, and I've worked on beer advertising for years," says Mr. Lalley, who spent 10 years working for D'Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles on Anheuser-Busch advertising.

The product itself, however, was less captivating. Molson'sRed Dog was a specialty, heavier-style alt brew but its silver packaging translated in the U.S. to expectations of a lighter beer.

While Miller felt the advertising had broad appeal, it quickly determined the actual beer wouldn't work well here.

The decision was made to use the advertising for a mainstream, slightly heavier brew under the Plank Road Brewery label. Product packaging was redesigned by Design Partners, but the advertising that started it all moved to the U.S., executed again by BBDO's Toronto office.

Miller introduced Red Dog in the Southeast last October. It was hoping to achieve the equivalent of a 0.8% national share and to begin expanding distribution nationally in early 1995. Two months later, with share figures averaging nearly double the target-and Anheuser-Busch nipping at its heels with a rival named Red Wolf-Miller sped up the timetable.

By January, Red Dog was in most markets and the bulldog was on its way to being a popular figure in the U.S.

Miller claims Red Dog has a 0.8% volume share of the national beer category in the market that most dogs them and a 3.5% share in Chicago, its most howling success.

"This thing is a real phenomenon," says Mr. Lalley, who has since been named group director-Miller trademark brands, charged with marketing responsibility for all brands carrying the Miller name.

Miller also has seen some unexpected benefits-several million dollars in apparel licensing fees.

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