Liquid Fire

J. Walter Thompson took the “never miss a genuine opportunity” tagline for Miller Genuine Draft to heart. It tapped Tarsem to direct two new commercials that pitch the beer as the new aphrodisiac.

Vibrating beds and scantily clad women are just some of the images featured in two new spots for MGD, but the sexually charged concepts weren’t enough to sell the director.

Tarsem, known for his work for Levi’s, Coca-Cola and Nike, had just completed shooting his first feature film in London, The Cell, and was vacationing in Spain when the agency called.

Because the SAG/AFTRA actors’ strike was still going strong in the U.S., the agency looked elsewhere. Tarsem agreed to work on the project with one caveat: The spots had to be produced in Spain.

According to JWT group creative director Bob Merlotti, the agency team “had no problem” making the trip, adding it was a stroke of good fortune to get Tarsem.

The end result, says Merlotti, carries the Tarsem stamp: extraordinary detail and strategic lighting. He’s created a mysterious, sensuous atmosphere, giving the commercials the look and feel of a feature film.

“Special attention was even given to how bottles were positioned,” adds executive producer Paul Saylor. To keep the label facing the camera, Saylor explains, actors tilt the bottles toward each other, effectively making a connection. Without dialogue, visual details like that were essential to conveying the subtle sexuality at the heart of the campaign, he says.

For instance, “Love Thy Neighbor,” shot in a 200-year-old vacant hospital in Antequera, Spain, opens with a couple annoyed by a loud party next door. Then the man discovers that the music causes the bedroom to shake. He demonstrates to his partner how a bottle cap bounces on the bed, suggesting it’s a “genuine opportunity” to enjoy the vibrations.

For “On the Lam,” shot in Alemeria, Spain, a local restaurant was converted to look like a motel. A man watching television inside a motel room learns that the woman taking a shower in his room is actually the “Bombshell Bandit.” His worries melt when she comes out of the bathroom clad only in black lingerie, a Miller in hand.

The provocative ads are running during late prime time in MGD’s 15 core markets on broadcast and cable stations. But the spots have already caused a stir among some distributors and networks. According to agency sources, at least one ad will have to be re-edited to turn down the heat.

That potentially explosive spot features a woman in a laundry room peeling off her clothes and throwing them into a washing machine. A man walks in. At first, he’s startled, then he pulls out a couple of MGD beers. The last shot is of her underwear being tossed into the washer.

The ad is expected to have a different ending to appease the networks. Some have refused to air it in its current form, sources say. That spot, directed by Barton Landsman of, will air in the first quarter of 200l.

Previous MGD ads also carried the “opportunity” tagline, but featured” less sultry story lines.