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Beer Ads Redefine Miller Time

These aren’t your father’s Miller Lite beer ads. And this isn’t his Miller Time either.

Miller Brewing Co. is causing a stir with its unusual new ad campaign for its best-selling brand and there isn’t a single retired sports star in sight.

Instead of the gang of ex-jocks, umpires and coaches that filled the Lite All-Star advertising lineup from the mid-70s through the early 1980s, the new campaign features a fictional advertising superstar named Dick.

Here is what he created to kick off the new campaign:

A man in a hat, bow tie and coat but no pants slinks through a wheat field in one commercial. A magician’s assistant sprouts fur under her arms as mice vanish in another ad. Three barflys sing “Adios, Amigo” to their empty beer bottles as they shuffle off to the bathroom in a third ad.

Each of the vignettes is framed by a new illustration of one of Miller’s hallowed ad themes, Miller Time, last used in 1985 for its former flagship brand, Miller High Life.

Miller hopes the new approach will serve as a sturdy vehicle for a steady flow of new vignettes designed to give Lite a hipper personality that will score with the 20-something set.

The brewer said the approach went over big with young adults it showed the ads to before launching the campaign in mid-January.

Critics haven’t been as kind. Weird, smug, self-indulgent and stupid are some of the words they have used to describe the ads.

They say the Dick character is an inside joke for advertising pros. They argue the vignettes offer little if any reason to buy the beer. And they say the invocation of the celebrated Miller Time theme is scandalous.

Bill Backer, the retired ad executive who helped create the theme “If you’ve got the time, we’ve got the beer” for Miller in the mid-70s, said he finds the new Miller Time campaign “a little quirky.”

“These particular pieces don’t seem to be aimed at the beer drinker as we knew him in the mid-70s. This is more of a soft drink approach, silly stuff,” he said.

Rance Crain, editor in chief of Advertising Age magazine, wrote that it was a sacrilege to use Miller Time in the ads. He said the ads are “so horrendously bad that I’m ready to revoke their 1996 Ad Agency of the Year Award.”

A few weeks later, Ad Age carried a letter from a New York reader who liked the ads and suggested Crain sounded “like a grumpy old man.”

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