Miller Lite Puts Taste on Trial

CHICAGO From the “gradations matter when it comes to taste claims” department, Miller Brewing Co. asserts Miller Lite tastes better than its “changed” competitor Bud Light in a new campaign from MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Three “Great Taste Trial” ads from the Miami agency began airing last week. The spots are set in a Court TV-type setting and use the tagline, “All rise for great taste.”

In one spot, lawyers representing Bud Light object to the clock-necklace-adorned rapper Flavor Flav being referred to as a taste expert after the rapper declared that Lite tastes better than the changed Bud Light. Another spot features one of Miller’s taste referees testifying that he threw a challenge flag because the changed Bud Light required further review. The third ad works in “changed Bud Light” into banter between the judge and the Miller Lite attorney.

A memo from the Milwaukee brewer sent to wholesalers Friday stated that it had “detected a statistically significant change in both Budweiser and Bud Light since we first began our direct comparisons two years ago.” So the brewer re-conducted independent taste comparisons through the Perception Institute of Richmond, Va., to reconfirm Lite had “more taste” than Bud Light and communicated those results for two reasons.

“We did not want to expose ourselves to the possibility that [Anheuser-Busch] would use the change as a new basis for their objection to our taste claim, saying that our tests were only valid against the Bud Light of two years ago,” the memo stated. A-B challenged Miller’s “Good call” campaign last year, alleging that it made false and misleading claims, but the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau ruled last April that Miller did not violate any comparative-advertising regulations.

The Miller memo also mentioned that the brewer wanted to ensure that any potential future modifications to Bud Light to make it more competitive with Miller Lite would be done transparently.

A-B responded that like all beer makers, its brew masters constantly make small adjustments in the brewing process to account for seasonal changes in raw materials to ensure consistent taste year-round.

“To suggest that we have made a formulation change in the way we brew our beers is a marketing ploy and is simply false,” said Douglas J. Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations for St. Louis-based A-B. “The recipes for Budweiser and Bud Light have not changed. We, too, analyze our competitors’ beers and note changes in their products all the time.”

On Tuesday, Miller announced it was providing substantiation of its claims to several cable outlets after they placed the spots on hold. According to Miller, the networks held the spots at A-B’s request.