MillerCoors gets Super creative, battles A-B with 1-second ad

ByTheresa Howard, USA TODAY
January 20, 2009, 1:09 PM

NEW YORK -- Anheuser-Busch will have the only beer ads in the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, 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.

The ads will feature actor Windell Middlebrooks, the Miller High Life deliveryman in ads, and the timing is aimed at boosting sales for Super Sunday.

"If we want people to drink our beer watching the big game, then we have to advertise before the big game," says Andy England, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors.

Making fun of big spenders is a message that fits the Miller High Life brand, which is priced 20% lower than premium brews, such as Miller Lite or A-B's Budweiser and Bud Light.

"People are trading down to below-premium-priced beer," says Benj Steinman, editor of beer newsletter Beer Marketer's Insights.

"It's a guerrilla (ad) tactic that talks to a real trend that's happening in the market," he says.

The one-second game-day stunt ad — known as a "blink" — will air on 25 local NBC stations reaching about 60% of the TV audience. The ad will (in a flash) promote Miller website 1secondad.com, which has the TV ad, more one-second ads and a buyer loyalty program.

"We have such a quality product we only need one second to tell our story," Middlebrooks says. "It represents us well, and people are going to get it."

Middlebrooks has been telling High Life's marketing story for 18 months. The message: pay less, get more.

That also sums up the goal of the brand's low-cost guerrilla plan for Super Sunday. Its costs will be "substantially below $3 million," England says. "And that's for everything."

The attempt to ambush Anheuser-Busch, the game's king of advertising, is not Miller's first. In online video last year, Middlebrooks critiqued Super Bowl ads.

A-B, which has 4½ minutes of ad time in the game, is mounting its own campaign to build sales before the game.

This week it will send people who registered mobile phone numbers at budbowl.com a Super Bowl-style ad that's longer and more raucous than could air on game day — and hopes they'll pass it to friends.

A-B will also promote the Super Bowl on Facebook and YouTube and make ads available for download after the game.

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