New Taste for Miller — Agencies Tapped for New Products

Bayer Bess Vanderwarker’s addition to Miller Brewing Co.’s agency roster last week was born of a massive new-product search that included virtually all of Miller’s current agencies, and resulted in new-product assignments for three or four agencies.
Sources close to the brewer say that Miller president Jack MacDonough, senior vp/marketing Dick Strup and vp/brand management Neil Harrison called on all its agencies to develop ideas on new products. Because of MacDonough’s relationship during his years at Anheuser-Busch with Bayer Bess partners Ron Bess and Gary Bayer, the agency also was included in the idea roundup. Besides Bayer Bess, Miller agencies Leo Burnett and J. Walter Thompson/Chicago supposedly had assignments accepted, and possibly Milwaukee-based Laughlin/Constable.
Officials at all four agencies referred calls to Miller or wouldn’t comment. Other Miller agencies include Backer Spielvogel Bates and Cliff Freeman & Partners, both New York, and Young & Rubicam/Chicago.
Although no new product assignments were officially disclosed, it is believed that five assignments out of nine original offerings were accepted. New beers, such as a European-style version of the company’s flagship Miller Lite, fruit-flavored beers, and a clear malt beverage product similar to Coors’ Zima brand, were apparently just a sampling of the original ideas, according to various Miller sources.
Using agencies to develop ideas about new products used to be common, but it seems to have stepped up at Miller under MacDonough.
One agency executive, who worked with MacDonough years ago at General Mills said using an agency to develop new product concepts and carry them all the way to the store shelf, was one of his fundamental principles.
The new product search at Miller has gone on for the past few months, and although it isn’t known whether any of the products will make it to the marketplace, it has given some hope to agencies living on Miller’s cusp. Insiders said that Miller believes it has too many agencies on its roster with eight.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)