creative campaigns: Back in ‘Time’

Guy humor, traditional tag anchor Ogilvy’s Lite spots It’s high time for a return to Miller Time.
When Miller Brewing handed Ogilvy & Mather its Lite beer account last year, the agency’s creatives knew they had some territory to reclaim for the troubled brand. Ogilvy’s executive creative director David Apicella says it was easy to pinpoint what people liked about Miller. He calls it “that lighthearted, humorous, beer thing–guys having a good time.” So it seemed natural to retain “Miller Time” as the unifying theme in all new ads for the $100 million Lite account.
In “Eye Rub,” three twentysomething men are bored by the lack of action in the bar where they’re enjoying some Miller Lite. One starts rubbing his eyes, and tells the others he can “see stars and stuff.” While the two other guys follows his lead, three beautiful, scantily clad women enter briefly and leave. The bartender, witnessing their missed opportunity, buys them a round with a wry smile.
Art director Chris Curry, who admits the eye-rub concept is “autobiographical,” says director Bryan Buckley’s choice to cast middle-aged woman as the bartender added a nuance the team hadn’t anticipated. She turned out to be more sympathetic than “a typical 40-year-old ex-firefighter” would have been, says creative director Jim Jenkins.
In “Radiohead,” a hospital ward livens up when the metal plate in a new patient’s head picks up the radio signal for a big game. The punchline: The next new arrival “gets cable.”
The ending was written on the fly during the shoot, says Jenkins, adding that Buckley had about half an hour to set up the shot. He finished it in three takes. “Bryan is extremely flexible and wants to do whatever’s funniest,” recounts Jenkins.
In “Thanks Bob,” several friends observe a moment of silence for their friend who, it turns out, is not dead but sitting opposite them–sipping water as the designated driver. Bob takes a ribbing, only to be exonerated when three beautiful French women ask for a ride home.
“We tried our best to not make it reek of a joke,” Buckley says, “and to make the misdirect last as long as possible.” He also avoided the “Hooters look,” he says, by using high-end fashions. “With the clothes the models had on, you could probably buy a Porsche,” he says.
Three ads broke on television last month. A fourth will break in April.
Buckley says he also tried to make the ads quirkier and fresher than others in the category, using dramatic–rather than comedic–lighting and including establishing shots to create a sense of place.
Still, the ads have been criticized by some as run-of-the-mill beer fare, and attacked by others as sexist, a common charge. Rick Roth, Ogilvy’s worldwide client services director, responds simply that the storyboards were a hit with the target audience.
“When you hear words like ‘That’s exactly what we do, we understand,’ it makes you feel like you’re on the right track,” Roth says. “As we make more work, it will become clear that the brand embraces everyone–men and women.” K