Beer War Rises to Federal Level

CHICAGO The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said it would refer Anheuser-Busch’s challenge of Miller Brewing’s “More flavor, more taste” claims to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, which already is reviewing the Milwaukee brewer’s campaign for fairness and truthfulness.

A-B brought complaints about the truth and accuracy in its competition’s ads for Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft before the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum. NAD invited Miller to an inquiry, but Miller declined to participate.

The No. 2 brewer stated, per NAD, that its claims are truthful, supported by consumer tests and that its advertising already is the subject of investigation by the government Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Miller executives previously have pointed to blind taste “perception” tests of 400,000 consumers conducted by the Institute for Perception, Richmond, Va., pitting A-B versus Miller products.

Those tests asked participants to pick which brew had more flavor, color and aroma but did not ask which beer they would prefer to drink. So the claims, Miller argues, are based on provable fact and not subjective preference.

Last year’s “Miller for President” campaign, via independent Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., played up the “More flavor, more taste” theme and that messaging continued with the football referee spots, via WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York and the megaphone ads, from The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va. A-B charged that the tests were improperly conducted and the ads leave consumers to infer that the Miller beers were preferred over the St. Louis brewer’s brands.

A-B filed a protest with broadcast networks during November, and CBS and NBC pulled some Miller ads in December, citing that the creative unduly disparaged Budweiser and Bud Light and made unsubstantiated claims.

Miller stated that while it supports the NAD and the self-regulatory process, it is declining to participate in the challenge before the NAD in order to avoid an overlapping and duplicative review by the government agency. The NAD, while noting that a concurrent review by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau does not deprive the division of resolving the issue, it also seeks to avoid a “duplicative review that may yield a duplicative, contradictory or potentially confusing result.”