It's been a while since big beer companies pushed the envelope on their advertising. In fact, for most of the 1990s, beer marketers relied on self-deprecating male humor, rather than sex--a big staple of beer advertising in the 1980s--to push their brands.
The change of heart during the 1990s was forced either by a wave of negative publicity or, as brewers liked to say, because the continued use of scantily clad women in the ads had gotten as stale as a day-old keg of beer.
But now, it seems, all industry eyes will be watching Miller Brewing Co. as the Milwaukee-based giant tries to push the boundaries with at least one television commercial for its Genuine Draft brand that, in its current form, has the networks blushing and refusing to air it.
The commercial is part of a new pool of work from J. Walter Thompson Chicago. Some industry insiders wonder if it signals yet another pendulum swing in the ever-shifting marketing attitudes among U.S. companies--and might turn heads for the wrong reasons.
The steamy ad, according to network television executives, shows a woman in an apartment laundry room stripping to her underwear and throwing her clothes in the washer.
A startled man walks in to do his own laundry; she's embarrassed until he pulls out a six-pack of Genuine Draft. The end shot, which apparently raised the red flag with network censors, shows the woman throwing one of her undergarments into his washing machine.
That the current rough cut of the ad was rejected is not unusual. Media buyers say that roughly 50 percent of first-run ads are rejected for one reason or another--either on content or the claims they make.
"A lot of it is negotiation," said one media buyer.
Although it's not clear whether Miller or JWT executives thought the ad would be approved, many advertisers will send an ad through to see what flies and make adjustments from there.
JWT reportedly has more than one ending for the ad in question, which may eventually appease network censors.
Either way, the new campaign under Thompson is quite a departure from the brand's former direction, which used subtle humor to deliver its "Never miss a genuine opportunity" line. No word on when the company wants to air the ad.
JWT officials wouldn't comment on the ad; Miller executives couldn't be reached.
Jim Kirk, Chicago Tribune. October 17, 2000
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