'Catfights' KO'd

With sales slipping, Miller Lite plans another marketing approach

May 23, 2003 - Miller plans to scrap its "Catfight" advertising campaign. The original "Catfight" spot, which featured two women tearing off each other's clothes during a brawl, drew plenty of attention and controversy over its sexual content when it debuted in January.


Additional spots that made their debut in March continued the theme.

A new marketing campaign for Miller Lite is in the works and will be seen this fall, said Norman Adami, who recently took over as president and chief executive officer of Miller. Miller Lite has "weak brand equity" and needs to be strengthened beyond the awareness that was raised by the "Catfight" campaign.

"We need to go for a deeper positioning for this brand," Adami said.

Adami discussed the changes while reporting that Miller's sales and market share continue to decline. Miller's U.S. market share is around 18.7%, Adami said, compared with 19.6% last July. Sales volume dropped 6.2% during that same period. Additional market share declines are expected over the next two to three years before current efforts to reposition Miller's core brands bring improved results, Adami said.

"These things take a long time to turn around. Miller is a supertanker, there's no one thing that can be done suddenly to rescue it," said Graham Mackay, SABMiller president and chief executive officer. South African Breweries bought Miller last year, forming SABMiller.

Besides the planned reengineering of Miller brands -- and a reduced exposure to the flagging alcopops market -- Mackay is planning to use his American muscle to push key imported SAB brands such as Pilsner Urquell. It acquired the Czech lager in 1999.

Another brand earmarked for international development is Peroni, in which SAB has just taken a 60% stake. "We think there is an interesting opportunity that has not been fully exploited. Italian food has colonised the world and Italian emigrants are all over the world, in the US in particular. We think on an ethnic and food basis there is significant potential for Peroni."

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