SABMiller preps corporate effort

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After setting a jump ball between two roster shops for Miller Genuine Draft, SABMiller is planning a mammoth corporate branding effort, according to executives close to the marketer.

The branding campaign will be themed "If you make the time, we'll make the beer" and builds on last year's corporate push from Ogilvy & Mather, New York, according to knowledgeable executives. Ogilvy handles Miller Lite and last week was asked to present executions for MGD, a flailing brand whose sales peaked in 1993. A Miller spokesman said no decisions had been made about what form the new campaign would take.

The new effort won't be created by Ogilvy. Instead, it comes predominately from WPP Group sibling Y&R Advertising, Chicago, which already has produced some ads and is working on more. New spots are expected to feature consumers and show "what Miller Time is all about," said one executive. Timing is unclear, though work may not break until next year.

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Last year's corporate push from Ogilvy featured brewery workers rather than consumers and did not carry the "Miller Time" anthem.

Miller tapped Y&R to lead a research effort on how the "Miller Time" platform could be translated for consumer consumption. At Miller's distributor meeting last spring, it presented a 60-second-plus anthem spot playing off the original 1970s "If you've got the time, we've got the beer" score. The commercial showed people toiling at offices, dry-cleaning plants and assembly lines as the voice-over said Americans work more hours than any other country and that they need to have a place where "adults can play rock, paper, scissors."

Some at the convention regarded Y&R's contribution as a backup had J. Walter Thompson's MGD work bombed, and the anthem spot has been collecting dust as the company tests its potential. It's not expected the anthem spot work will run, but the new Y&R spots likely will carry a similar tone.


One Southern distributor said that while Miller advertising has improved, it continues to be lackluster, and he blamed many of the problems on headquarters in Milwaukee. That could change under South African Breweries, which bought Miller from Philip Morris Cos. on July 9. Though the company usually takes a hands-off approach with its acquisitions and CEO John Bowlin said he and his management team will stay, pressure is mounting-in part because the company's total beer volume hit its height seven years ago.

With sales now as flat as a three-day-old pilsner and its key selling season nearly over, the company needs effective creative going into football season. During the first week of October, distributors will vet new ads at the National Beer Wholesalers Association and Miller must convince them to push its diverse products rather than offerings from competitors, such as Coors Brewing Co. and Diageo, which markets Smirnoff Ice.

As far as MGD is concerned, a Miller spokesman last week said Ogilvy had been invited to pitch execution ideas because current spots have not worked. JWT also is presenting ideas, and whichever agency wows SABMiller likely will nab the $50 million account. "We'll keep going with JWT and see what O&M can come up with, and hopefully between the two, we will find something that is compelling for MGD and gets us to where we want to be with that brand," the spokesman said.

"Miller's been a terrific client and we think it's a tremendous opportunity to bring them outstanding ideas and we're pulling out all the stops and marshalling our creative resources to do just that," said a spokesman for WPP's JWT.

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