New Chief Brews at Miller

Bowlin: ‘All of Our Advertising Has to Be World-Class’
CHICAGO–John Bowlin supported a return to the “All-Stars” campaign for Miller Lite during his first stint at the brewer in 1994.
And Bowlin, named president and chief executive officer of Miller Brewing last week, said he supports it now.
“What we have on the air is the right direction,” Bowlin said of Fallon McElligott’s current effort for Lite, in which retired athletes and others discuss the merits of the beer. “I think there’s something there.”
Bowlin was one of four Kraft Foods International and Philip Morris U.S.A. executives brought in by Miller parent Philip Morris last week to stem the brewer’s ongoing loss in share and sales. PM cleaned out Miller’s top ranks, dropping executives including chairman and chief executive officer John MacDonough and vice president of marketing John Rooney, who have been unable to direct successful marketing efforts for Miller’s core brands.
Bowlin acknowledged Miller’s advertising, primarily the stalled Miller Genuine Draft work from Wieden & Kennedy in Portland, Ore., has fallen short of late.
“I wouldn’t call it world-class to be honest,” he said. “All of our advertising has to be world-class. Foster’s [from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge in New York] is world-class advertising. [Miller’s] High Life and Icehouse are damned close.”
High Life is handled by Wieden; Icehouse was shifted to Square One in Dallas earlier this year from Young & Rubicam in New York.
As for Lite, Bowlin singled out two Fallon spots–the ones starring George Hamilton and Edgar Winter, and Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly and supermodel Rebecca Romijn- Stamos–as among the best of the current work.
In 1993 and 1994, when Bowlin was president and chief operating officer of Miller, the brewer had Bates, then agency for MGD, produce an “All-Stars” concept campaign for Lite. Bowlin supported the idea but left for Kraft, and it eventually withered.
“I am consistent,” he said. “It’s going back to the inspiration of the [original] All-Stars, which is masculine humor, friendly barroom conflict and pride in the product.”
Wieden’s proposed “Put a keg in your hand” campaign for MGD fell horribly flat at Miller’s distributors convention in March, which helped push MacDonough and Rooney out the door. New work, which Bowlin said he hasn’t yet seen, is due by May.
Several executives who have worked closely with Bowlin described him as fair and loyal to agencies, and unlikely to make any quick changes to Miller’s roster. Much of the agency work will be handled by Robert Mikulay, the new senior vice president of marketing, replacing Rooney. Mikulay held the same title at PM, where he worked on Marlboro cigarettes.
As for why top agencies have not produced more winning efforts for Miller, Bowlin said, “We have to look in the mirror.
“We will provide clear direction,” he said.
That will include sticking with the strategy of concentrating on core brands. “I believe in fishing where the fish are,” Bowlin said.