In a surprise second action, Miller offered a major consolation prize to J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, which along with BSB, Burnett and Young & Rubicam, Chicago, had been in the competition for the $35 million Lite Ice account.
JWT picked up the $12 million in advertising for Sharp's non-alcoholic beer and $3 million in advertising for Miller Reserve superpremium beers, both of which had been at BSB.
Miller went out of its way to say that its move of Lite Ice didn't indicate any danger for Burnett.
"This move has absolutely no implication for Miller Lite," said Neil Harrison, VP-brand management. "It is not unusual that you have different marketing for two brands. They are not Siamese twins."
Mr. Harrison said Miller remains pleased with Burnett's creative for Lite and feels the localized approach of the current Lite campaign is turning around the decline of the nation's No. 2 brand while creating a "megabrand" that can produce viable extensions like Lite Ice.
Instead, he said, BSB simply had a better idea for Lite Ice and Miller wanted to balance brand assignments among its agencies.
However, Burnett had worked hard to keep the account in the creative shoot-out. After its original evolution of the "New rules" campaign failed to win client approval, the agency developed two new ideas and went so far as to pay for and produce several speculative commercials using the new approach.
"We were disappointed. We had some very good work on the table, but Miller was very upfront on this," said Bob Welke, exec VP-chief creative officer. "If you judge by success in the marketplace, there was no reason to change agencies, but it is not uncommon that you do advertising designed to launch a brand and then the brand is reassigned."
BSB handles Miller Genuine Draft and Genuine Draft Light but still thirsts to win back Miller Lite, which helped build the foundation for the agency. BSB produced years of "Tastes great, less filling" advertising before losing Lite in 1991.
"This win supports the turnaround in the whole agency," said Tim Corrigan, exec VP-director of worldwide client service at BSB. "It's part of our strategy to be Miller's No. 1 agency."
Burnett, after initially producing an "It's it, that's that" campaign for Lite that lasted less than a year, introduced a "Come on ..." campaign and last year began running the "Can your beer do this?" series of advertising that combines two diverse events. The current ads use "Great taste, less filling."
In 1990, Miller Lite shipped 19.9 million barrels, but that slipped to 17.3 million barrels last year, according to Beer Marketer's Insights.
Burnett had done the introductory campaign for Lite Ice that used a "New rules" theme, but Miller felt the agency was too slow to develop an acceptable long-term image campaign. Miller had wanted that new campaign on the air now.
Burnett last week issued a statement expressing unhappiness.
"We are obviously very disappointed to no longer have the opportunity to work on Miller Lite Ice," the agency said. "We value our relationship with Miller Brewing Co. tremendously, and it is one we will continue to strengthen as we work on the Miller Lite assignment."
For BSB, the Lite Ice win is a coup for new management whose mandate is to improve the agency's lackluster new-business record.