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Miller Lite Taps Classic Tagline

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Let the changes begin. Less than two months after the MillerCoors merger, company marketing execs have opted to tweak Miller Lite's NFL ad campaign by bringing back the "Great taste, less filling" tagline.

Miller Lite will re-air last year's "More Taste League" ads once the pro football season kicks off on Sept. 4. The ads featuring Scrubs star John C. McGinley as "The Beer Commish" will be the same as last year albeit with the "Great taste, less filling" tagline. The Beer Commish was created by former Lite agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Miami, which was replaced last year by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York.

Miller Lite's most recent "Ultimate Light Beer" campaign is being abandoned altogether.

"Great taste, less filling" continued appearing on Miller Lite's packaging well after the original TV spots showcasing comic Rodney Dangerfield and ex jocks like Bob Uecker, Bubba Smith and Boog Powell stopped airing during the 1980s. There are no plans at the moment for creative that would reprise a current day version of the Miller Lite All-Stars debating which Miller Lite attribute is superior, said a brewing company rep.

The iconic tagline also will also be added to the existing will World Beer Cup ad which touts all of the medals the brand has won. It will be mentioned in radio spots as well, per a notice sent to distributors on Tuesday (Aug. 19). "What marketing geniuses," said a Midwest wholesaler. "We've been saying they that they should have done this for years."

"Research has shown the two factors that matter the most to mainstream light beer drinkers are taste and refreshment," MillerCoors said in that same memo. "And so the path to simultaneous share growth for Miller Lite and Coors Light is clear: We will distinctly align each brand against one of these benefits, driving home our positions in everything we do on behalf of each brand."

Coors Light has been steadily gaining sales since 2005 with packaging innovations that transformed cold into a tangible benefit and its current positioning as the "World's Most Refreshing Beer." Miller Lite, on the other hand, saw sales to retailers decline 1.6% during the second quarter.

The brand was launched in 1975 and commanded more than half of low-calorie beer sales during the 1980s. But Anheuser-Busch introduced Bud Light during 1982, which became the No. 1 light beer by 1994 and today is the overall category leader.

Miller Lite gained ground starting in 2004 with a strategy that pitted it against Bud Light as the enabled challenger starting with a "Miller for President" campaign that poked fun at A-B ads. That challenge was executed further with blind taste test promotions in bars. But the double-digit sales increases were fading by 2006, which seemed to validate A-B executives' argument that Miller Brewing was a one-trick pony.

Now with the joint venture between SABMIller and MolsonCoors, Bud Light is facing a unified two-front battle as CMO Andy England, previously the chief marketer for Coors Brewing, advances Miller Lite with a taste message and Coors Light maintains its refreshment positioning.

"He's done a great job with Coors Light, but now we'll really see how good he is. He has to get Miller Lite to grow," said an East Coast Coors distributor.

Beer wholesalers for both MillerCoors and the soon-to-be formed Anheuser-Busch InBev say their suppliers' mantra for this summer was hold on to market share while both companies work through the pangs of reorganizing. MillerCoors is relocating its headquarters to Chicago (from Milwaukee and Golden, Colo.) and is still filling in management slots below the senior executives tier.