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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beer Advertising: Lite Laws

It has been at least five years since the last time I had a Miller Lite, Bud Light or Coors Light. The last time was similar to a recent party when I "got the chance" to sample Michelob Ultra. My wife and I went to a neighborhood happy hour and the cooler was filled with just one brew: Michelob Ultra. They had some wine, but I was in a beer mood and it was time to see what Anheuser-Busch was spending tens of millions of dollars to market. As a drinks journalist I am sometimes required to sample product I'd not normally stock in my home fridge.

While I don't consume light beer, I do get a healthy dose of light beer advertising thanks to the mega budgets of A-B, SABMiller and Molson Coors. I've been in the marketing business for the last 23 years, so I'm more than a casual observer of television and other advertising. It's interesting to see the creative direction of the light beer brands from the mega brewers -- certainly more interesting than drinking these brews.

Coors Light is currently bombarding TV sets across America with the Silver Bullet Express that delivers icy cold Coors Light to a non-stop supply of sweltering beautiful people to the tune of Love Train. They have even made a somewhat lame attempt to incorporate this theme into ads supporting their NASCAR sponsorship.

A-B always has something new in its creative pipeline for Bud Light. I found the "Magic Fridge" spot I first watched during the Super Bowl to be clever, but not something with legs for a campaign. They are now rolling out a series of Zagar and Steve television spots that feature a pair of odd couple roommates. Steve is a normal guy, with normal friends (in the world of beer advertising this means good looking). Zagar is a tribal chieftain of sorts who is closer to a cave dweller than modern man. You guessed it: all sorts of "fun" takes place with Steve and Zagar bowling, having dinner with beautiful women, etc. They even have a website at http://zagarandsteve.com and Steve has his very own blog about living with Zagar.

By far my favorite among the mega light beer ad campaigns is Miller Lite's "Man Laws" effort by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, a highly creative shop based in Miami. Miller Lite's "Men of the Square Table" (you can see them all at www.manlaws.com)include Bert Reynolds, Jerome Bettis, a rodeo cowboy, test pilot/astronaut, professional wrestler and assorted actors/comedians. One interesting addition to the group is Aron Ralston, the guy who cut part of his arm off a few years ago to free himself from a boulder that had trapped him in a remote section of Utah.

Reynolds at 70 shows he can still appeal to a younger audience as he leads the group in deciding "Man Laws" like "If you poke it, you own it."

It's still early to see if Man Laws will mean more sales for Miller Lite. I'm not in their core user group, but if I were to have to make a choice of which of the three mega light beer brands to buy at the moment I'd go with Bert's beer.

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