Miller Refs Penalize ‘Unbeermanlike Conduct’

NEW YORK Ogilvy & Mather brings referees off the gridiron and into the real world, calling “beer penalties” on unsuspecting beer drinkers, in a TV and print campaign for Miller Lite and Miller Genuine Draft.

Three spots rolled out with the start of the football season last month and three more broke this week. Directed by Traktor, they show refs invading certain situations—a campsite, a dinner for an office employee, a rock concert—and calling penalities on people not drinking Miller brand beer. “Illegal use of brain on Tom passing out beer with less taste than Miller Lite,” says a ref who shows up at a campfire sing-along. “Good call” remains the tagline.

Nine print ads and a 12-page booklet outline the different “beer penalties,” from “Roughing the palate” (“When someone fails to order you a cold-filtered Miller Genuine Draft and instead hands you a less flavorful Budweiser”) and “Unbeermanlike conduct” (“When a drinker orders his date a Bud Light.”)

The penalty idea came about after Miller requested a campaign for the football season that incorporated carb and flavor information about the brand.

“Beer and football have been around forever, so there’s a lot of ways to do it,” said Joe Johnson, creative director at Ogilvy in New York. “We sat in a meeting and tried to come up with a new way to talk about beer and football. We went through all the cliches, and during that process we came up with the idea of a ref calling penalties on beer.”

The hardest part about creating the ads, shot in California in early August, was casting the refs. They needed more than one, because they didn’t want the ads to be about “the single crazy ref,” Johnson said. “We wanted it to be a movement.” But giving the hand signals and delivering lines at the same time proved difficult for many actors, according to Johnson.

“Very few people could physically do it, deliver the signals and then speak the lines,” Johnson said. “Then they had to seem real and also seem kind of funny.” After seeing about 500 actors, the agency finally cast the referees. “It was a really long process,” Johnson said.

Other Ogilvy personnel on the campaign included creative head David Apicella, copywriter Mark Bernath and art director Rich Wallace.