Miller Turns To Mother To Relaunch Milwaukee’s Best

The creative brains behind Miller Lite’s award-winning but controversial “Dick” campaign are back at work for the brewery. This time, Miller Brewing has charged Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom, now partners at Mother in New York, to do for Milwaukee’s Best what Wieden + Kennedy did for Miller High Life: Make an old, tired brand relevant again.

Karlsson and Malmstrom, who worked on Miller’s “Dick” campaign while at Publicis Groupe’s Fallon, Minneapolis, in the late 1990s, joined London-based Mother’s New York outpost last August. Mother’s executives talked their way onto Miller’s roster during a review for the brand last year that the shop did not initially participate in, said Dave Dixon, director of economy brands at Miller. “They were very persistent, which is one of the things we liked about them,” Dixon said.

Karlsson and Malmstrom’s work for Miller Lite featured “advertising superstar Dick” and spots such as one in which a crazed man dressed as a beaver terrorizes a group of pioneer homesteaders. The worked gained attention and three gold Lions at Cannes, but failed to win over Miller’s distributors or do much for sales.

Dixon said Karlsson and Malmstrom’s work for Miller Lite was not a factor in making a decision on Milwaukee’s Best. “It was a non-issue—in my mind, it wasn’t a pro or a con,” said Dixon. “It’s a different time; it’s a different cast at the brewery.”

“This is a new challenge,” said Karlsson. “We’re Mother—a different set of people, a different way of working.”

As was the case with Miller High Life in the late 1990s, sales for Milwaukee’s Best are sliding. For the year ended Jan. 25, sales of Milwaukee’s Best were down 10 percent from the year earlier to $83 million, and Milwaukee’s Best Light was down 4 percent to $86 million, according to Information Resources Inc.

Milwaukee’s Best, a budget brand, has had little marketing support during the past several years and has been sold largely on price. The client spent about $1 million on advertising for the brand last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The last TV for Milwaukee’s Best was in 1997, when Dallas shop Square One created work tagged, “Release the beast.” The brand has not had an agency since, said a Miller representative.

Milwaukee’s Best was chosen for increased marketing support because it has decent volume and a full lineup that includes Light and Ice extensions, Dixon said. Ad spending will increase gradually once a strategy for the brand is developed, he added. A media plan is in the works, and all forms of media are a possibility, including TV. Mother’s first work is due in July.

Six years ago, Wieden introduced the now-familiar spots for Miller High Life that lend a masculine, working-class image to the brand while remaining funky enough to attract 21-year-old hipsters. Spending for High Life and High Life Light last year was about $20 million, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The work is credited with stemming a longtime sales slide for the brand. For the year ended Jan. 25, High Life had a 2.2 percent share of the market, flat from the previous year, according to IRI.

The Milwaukee’s Best review involved roster and non-roster shops, Dixon said. He declined to name the non-roster agencies. Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., was among the participants and later picked up assignments for Miller Genuine Draft.

In addition to Wieden, Miller’s roster shops include WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York and Young & Rubicam in Chicago.

Dixon said Mother’s task is to focus on Milwaukee’s Best. If the shop proves itself there, “then other doors can open,” he said.