- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Men wanting to know whether it’s OK to iron jeans or hug their friends will have to wait for answers.

Miller Brewing Co. has put its popular “Man Laws” ads on hold while it goes back to comparing Miller Lite to competitors’ beer in a new spot.

As popular as the ads with Burt Reynolds and sports figures have been, they fell victim to the first rule of advertising: They didn’t sufficiently boost sales of Miller’s flagship product in the still-expanding light beer category to justify extending the campaign.

“The competition has intensified within the segment, so we’ve made a decision to transition to point out how and why Miller is different from the others,” said Pete Marino, spokesman for the Milwaukeee brewer. Nearly half of Miller’s sales come from Miller Lite.

Sales of Miller Lite have lagged in the past year while the light-beer segment, which now accounts for more than half of all beer sales, continues to grow, according to Eric Shepard, executive editor of trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights.

Miller’s parent, London company SABMiller PLC, said last week Miller Lite sales rose 1.5 percent in last year’s fourth quarter after declining slightly earlier in the year.

At the same time, rivals Bud Light and Coors Light gained share, Mr. Shepard said. The light category also was abuzz last year with the introduction of Heineken Premium Light and continued growth of imports such as Corona Light, he said.

Miller’s new ad aired nationwide Sunday during the NFC Championship game featuring the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints. Both the new ad and the “Man Laws” series were created by the Crispin, Porter and Bogusky advertising firm of Miami.

The spot takes a comical tone as it explains how Miller Lite differs from other light beers, even just by spelling its name “Lite” rather than “Light.”

A man says he “just heard about GHT myself” and then prevents a fellow drinker from imbibing a nondescript light beer, spelled with “GHT.”

“Before you drink a light beer,” the man says, “please check the label. If you see GHT, you’re not getting Miller L-I-T-E.”

The top selling light beer in the United States, which is also the nation’s top-selling beer overall, is Bud Light, made by Anheuser-Busch Cos. The other major light beer is Molson Coors Co.’s Coors Light. Both contain the “GHT.”

Miller’s new ads will air through at least the middle of April. Mr. Marino said it’s not clear whether the company will continue with the “GHT” ads after that or develop a new series.

“Man Laws” could return at the start of football season later this year, he said. The popular ads started in the spring and featured former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis debating with Burt Reynolds and others about what a man is and is not allowed to do. Leaving early from a sporting event? Not allowed. Dating a best friend’s hot ex-girlfriend? Allowed after a six-month waiting period.

The series has proved popular with Miller fans and even prompted a Web site, www.manlaws.com, where more than 100,000 proposed “Man Laws” have been submitted to a Manlawpedia. “Man Laws” forbid the ironing of jeans and allows hugging of friends with one hand, not two.

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