Miller’s ‘Reality’ TV

Miller Lite has unveiled its latest series of “reality” television commercials focusing exclusively on the Texas market.

Filmed by a small documentary crew headed by Mark Perez of VH1’s Bands on the Run fame, the series follows a group of real-life friends as they hop from club to club drinking Miller Lite beer. The results, edited down to four 60-second TV spots, are being shown on consecutive Thursday nights in the local markets in which they are filmed. The first series aired in the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas in mid-August; the debut spot caught Hilary Penzel and friends on a night out in Dallas.

“We’re trying to reclaim the equity that’s in Miller Time,” said company representative Scott Bussen. “People have vivid ideas about what that means—camaraderie, being yourself, everyone getting along—but we’d kind of let it slip over the years.”

Miller’s sales have also slipped recently in Texas. Although Bussen declined to reveal specific figures, market researcher Beer Marketer’s Insights shows that Miller Lite is a distant second in Texas market share behind Bud Lite, selling 2.6 million barrels compared to Bud’s more than 4 million.

Miller created a separate advertising and marketing program for Texas three years ago with its “True to Texas” advertising campaign. The ad spend for the latest effort was not disclosed, but represents “a huge step-up in budget,” according to Bussen.

Two weeks ago, Dallas viewers got a taste of the new reality campaign with the first installment of Hilary and friends. The 25-year-old broadcast manager was chosen as the area “spokesdrinker” following a radio and TV promotion which involved the film crew hosting auditions at area bars. Outtakes from the auditions were also aired locally as a 30-second commercial.

In the first spot, the ladies spread glitter on themselves in preparation for a night on the town. As the series progresses, they have dinner, make a hilarious group visit to the ladies’ room and dance atop a bar at a nightclub.

Reality TV helped Miller target the 21- to 27-year-olds it wanted as consumers in the bars they actually frequent, said Dena Self, an account director at Schutz International, an ad agency in Morton Grove, Ill. The shop was contracted on a project basis to handle “Miller Lite Lens,” as the promotional program is called.

“Obviously [reality TV] is the hottest thing out there,” Self said about broadcast viewing. “People love to watch either people like them or exactly not like them.”

One drawback of producing this type of campaign, she said, is that it is even more labor intensive than a typical commercial shoot.

During filming of Hilary’s segment, for example, production assistants were flying around restaurants and clubs, getting camera releases for every person that was in a shot. They also made sure that no one who even appeared to be under age 25 was filmed—an alcohol industry standard. There was no scripted dialogue, and the “cast,” even surrounded by lights and cameras, experienced the same problem of getting a waiter’s attention as anyone else.

“Hopefully our distributors will start hearing some buzz in the bars,” Bussen said. When the cameras swing by next year, he added, Miller would like to see a little excitement for the brand, “something like ‘I want to be out in the hot bars tonight because Miller Lite Lens might come by.’ “