A-B’s Ref Makes the Call as Spots Take On Miller

CHICAGO Anheuser-Busch goes back on the offensive tonight against arch-rival Miller Brewing with two spots breaking on ABC’s Monday Night Football.

The ads were produced by independent Cannonball in St. Louis. One commercial shows a referee walking into a backyard barbeque and trying to wrest Bud Lights from the people’s hands. Miller has run similar football-themed spots.

In this case, however, the partygoers are reluctant to give up their Bud Lights; the ref grabs up several bottles and makes a run for it.

The response to Miller just “naturally flowed” from Bud Light’s longtime “great lengths” strategy, in which people do anything for a Bud Light, said Dan McHugh, senior director of marketing for Bud Light. “We’re not going off-strategy with the response,” McHugh said.

Specifically, A-B is responding to Miller spots launched in September via WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather. They show referees flagging beer drinkers for serving Budweiser and Bud Light instead of “better-tasting” Miller Lite or more “full-flavored” Miller Genuine Draft.

McHugh said Cannonball brought the spots to A-B on its own, and that the work is not the result of A-B asking for a response to Miller’s efforts.

A-B spent $130 million on domestic Bud Light ads last year; Miller put $120 million behind Miller Lite, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.