Published on .

After more than two years of heavy ad spending, how can Miller Brewing Co., a once-celebrated marketer, be going back to previous campaign ideas from previous management teams and previous advertising agencies?

The word circulating about its now-delayed new campaign for Miller Genuine Draft, from agency Wieden & Kennedy, is that the advertising was centered on the "draft keg" idea, the same concept used when the MGD brand was originally built. MGD had some terrific advertising in those heady growth days, as did Miller Lite, the company's flagship brew. In Lite's case, after acknowledging its twentysomething "Dick" campaign had, indeed, been a failure, Miller this year switched back to the marketing strategy that built that brand-and the entire light beer business as well.

Make no mistake about Miller's status as celebrated marketer. Its virtual creation of a market for a reduced-calorie beer (after it bought a small Chicago-area brew that was going nowhere) is one of marketing's classic success stories. To sell the concept of "real" beer drinkers guzzling a "woman's" beer, Miller and its agency used retired athletes who were watching their guts, so to speak.

And what a great run "Tastes great, less filing" had. It ran a full 15 years, even longer counting the initial work that evolved into that slogan. Now light beer is not only accepted but established as a significant part of the U.S. market. And Miller, struggling to find a Lite ad strategy that works today, has gone full cycle to bring back the celebrity-oriented "argument" idea.

Regardless of how well the new Lite TV commercials are or are not done, celebrities left to debate whether Lite is good because it has "choice hops" or because it has "smooth" taste appear to be mired in a "who cares?" dispute. In MGD's case, Miller may have a better chance of getting more mileage out of an old marketing idea; this brand's positioning hasn't strayed as far, nor has the beer market changed as drastically as it has for Lite.

The broader question is when-and whether-someone at Miller can get a grasp on what's happening to the damaged public perceptions of these two fine brands and turn things around. The hops in Lite may be choice, but nothing about the

Most Popular