"Super Bowl ad" means a commercial that runs in the national broadcast feed between the coin toss or kickoff and the final whistle. This ain't that.
But Miller High Life's one-second-ad gimmick did turn all the peculiarities of the game -- the massive interest, the incredible expense, Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive rights to beer advertising -- into an earned-media bonanza.
The ploy was a big escalation of the prior year's online video starring actor Windell Middlebrooks, in his High Life deliveryman character created by Crispin, Porter & Bogusky in 2007, critiquing Super Bowl advertising. For the follow-up, Miller bought in-game airtime for one-second ads on local TV stations around the country, built a website and publicized its plan in a feature in USA Today.
"Anheuser-Busch will have the only beer ads in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl," Theresa Howard wrote in the article, "but rival MillerCoors plans a counterattack of TV and Web ads that make fun of such free spending, as well as a one-second stunt ad airing on local stations during the game. The pregame TV ads for Miller High Life start Jan. 26 and will tweak advertisers paying NBC $3 million -- $100,000 a second -- for a 30-second ad in the game."
As the introduction on Miller's 1secondad.com put it: "Paying $3 million for a 30-second commercial makes as much sense as putting sauerkraut on a doughnut. Actually, even that makes more sense."
Although A-B's Super Bowl exclusivity didn't prevent rivals from buying time on local stations during the game (see Heineken's "Brad Pitt" in 2005), NBC directed the affiliates it owned not to run Miller's spot. That kept the ad off the air in major markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Miller still got its win: High Life sales in the week after Super Bowl XLIII jumped 8.6% from the equivalent period a year earlier, according to ACNielsen. They were up nearly 5% for the week before the game.
P.S. Inspired by Miller Brewing's tactic, Ivar’s Seafood Restaurants in Seattle and agency Heckler Associates bought a half-second of Super Bowl ad time that year to run on local affiliate KING-TV.
BRAND: Miller High Life
AGENCY: Saatchi & Saatchi