Why Is Miller Lite’s Ad About Holiday Parties So Unnerving? Because No One in It Is Real

All of the spot's odd coworkers are meticulous sculptures by artist Alex Prager

The sculptures will soon be on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Miller Lite
Headshot of David Griner

When word inevitably comes down that your office’s holiday party is now a BYOB virtual happy hour, will you be happy or sad? The answer probably depends on how much you already liked your coworkers and also how starved for socialization you are after all these months in quarantine.

But Miller Lite and agency DDB are betting that you’re happy to skip the office Christmas shindig in favor of some offline time at home. To highlight that opinion, the brand partnered with artist and photographer Alex Prager to create one of the most unnerving office holiday parties ever—which is saying something.

The brand’s new ad features what, on first viewing, seems to be a truly uncomfortable office party caught in a frozen moment of excess and emotion. But in fact, it’s a collection of 15 lifelike sculptures created to reenact the kinds of people and moments you’re unlikely to miss.

Prager called the project an ideal collaboration for an artist like herself.

“It’s rare that a project like this comes my way. I have been experimenting with sculpture in my work for years. Miller Lite and DDB trusted me to make 15 life sculptures with complete creative autonomy,” Prager said. “It’s one of those dream collaborations that comes along once every 5 years or so. It touches on many things I’ve been exploring in my artistic practice—the line between reality and artifice and how we find ways to connect as humans through both raw emotion and performance, or projected realities.”

It’s one of those dream collaborations that comes along once every 5 years or so.

Alex Prager, artist

Prager’s work has been widely admired for how she brings some of the uncanny-valley discomfort normally associated with CGI into the real world via elaborately staged sculptures. Her work for Miller Lite will find a home as a free outdoor exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, beginning Nov. 21 and running through Jan. 3, 2021.

The project was developed by DDB’s offices in Chicago and San Francisco.

“With many companies canceling or taking their work parties virtual, we’ll be getting something we actually want for the holidays—more time to enjoy Miller Time with our real friends,” said Courtney Carter Dugan, director of activation for Miller Lite. “No one’s going to miss making awkward small talk or being forced to take silly photobooth pictures with cowork.”

While the spot obviously pokes fun at the worst parts of office holiday parties, Prager said she appreciated the uplifting aspect of celebrating the holidays in smaller groups of close friends and loved ones.

 “This year has been a disaster in terms of connecting with people we share common realities with,” she said, “so I was very excited to work on a project that is ultimately about love and the human condition seen through an elegant and humorous lens.”

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."