Miller drops second shoe: Lite up for grabs

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Miller Brewing Co. is tossing its $150 million Lite beer account up for review among its roster agencies, according to executives close to the brewer.

Miller has invited incumbent Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis, as well as Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and Y&R Advertising, New York, to pitch for its largest brand.


The move comes just weeks after the company's marketing chief admitted to wholesalers that the brewer's edgy "Dick" campaign from Fallon was a flop and would be overhauled.

A Miller spokeswoman declined comment on the review, but said: "We do call upon our agency resources to move our business forward."

Wieden handles Miller Genuine Draft and Y&R has Icehouse and Molson.

Some observers are speculating that the brewer may seek to contact Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco. Miller VP-Marketing Jack Rooney once worked at Riney, which has a long history of handling beer accounts, and currently handles McKenzie River Co.'s Black Star beer.

Fallon and Riney representatives referred calls to Miller; Wieden and Y&R could not be reached for comment by press time.


This is the second review in two years for Lite, as Miller struggles to find the right strategy to boost the brand in a flat beer market. In December 1996, the brewer fired Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and tapped Fallon for the brand.

At the time, complaints were that the advertising was flat and the brand had a stale image, particularly with younger drinkers.

In January 1997, Fallon broke the refashioned "Miller Time" campaign, which went to the other extreme in an effort to reach twentysomething drinkers. Initial ads featuring an elderly couple necking, beer-drinking angels and a naked guy walking across a field targeted youth at the expense of other viewers, some observers said.


Despite hundreds of millions in marketing support and extensive price discounting, the Fallon effort has failed to move the sales needle for the brand.

Miller parent Philip Morris Cos. reported a 2.6% sales volume decline for the brand in the third quarter.

According to Information Resources Inc., Lite volume was down 1.1% to 29.8 million cases during the 52 weeks ended Oct. 4.

The intent of new creative, Mr. Rooney told wholesalers, would be to appeal to a broader demographic and focus on boosting sales.

Executives close to the brewer said Miller wouldn't necessarily "throw out the baby with the bathwater" and may retain elements of the current campaign, such as the "Miller Time" umbrella.

Also due for a change is Wieden's gritty b&w effort for Genuine Draft, although that business apparently is not up for review. Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.

Copyright November 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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