Miller drives for growth beyond Lite

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Miller Lite's growing again. Now Miller Brewing Co. wants to right the rest of its brews.

At its wholesaler conference last week the brewer outlined plans that include a 20%-plus boost in marketing spending in key markets for long-declining Miller Genuine Draft; the first TV ad support for Milwaukee's Best in a decade and a new push that ditches the High Life man. Miller will also boost marketing to Hispanics. And Miller Lite is earmarked for a 20% bump in marketing support.

"We need you to support the Miller portfolio as a whole," Graham Mackay, CEO of Miller owner SABMiller, told wholesalers at the Milwaukee event.

Accomplishing its goals while maintaining Lite's momentum is a tall order. Light beer is growing in popularity while full-calorie domestic beers like Genuine Draft slide. No. 1 brewer A-B is committed to boosting volume after a tough year. And Molson Coors Brewing Co. will invest to turn around sliding Coors Light.

Miller needs growth from its other brands, since Miller Lite's growth has shown signs of slowing as it hits tougher comparisons. Miller shipments increased by 1.6% to 38.9 million barrels last year, its first rise in a decade, according to Beer Marketer's Insights. But that was driven largely by Lite, which grew by 10.5% to 17.4 million barrels. High Life and Genuine Draft both declined.

Miller is touting Lite and Genuine Draft as the best beers to go with meals. Lite ads from WPP Group's Y&R, Chicago, illustrate the point by showing people washing down heaping plates of food with absurdly tiny glasses and bottles of light beer. Both brands will be used in taste challenges scheduled for restaurants.


In one spot for Genuine Draft from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va. beers in store coolers-ranging from Guinness to Bud-call out for a guy to buy them. He picks up Genuine Draft, which doesn't talk.

A spot for Lite from Y&R, directed by Spike Jonze, makes fun of A-B advertising's penchant for talking animals. In the ad, a menagerie of talking critters-including a raccoon from Staten Island-audition for a spot.

As for High Life, Miller is dropping the man's man High Life guy and bringing to life the "Girl on the Moon" icon that appears on the beer's label. The campaign, from Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore. celebrates beer-drinking occasions.

Some of the missing macho can be found in TV ads for Milwaukee's Best that show giant cans of the brew falling from the sky and crushing men who show their softer side. Mother, New York, handles.

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