Miller Brewing Co. has taken it's competitor, Anheuser-Busch Cos., to court claiming that AB's advertising activities are damaging its sales.
Miller filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.
The motion alleges that St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch, maker of Budweiser, has included in its recent "Unleash the Dawgs" campaign numerous activities that hurt Miller's sales.
Distributors allegedly are placing 3-by-5 stickers on Miller Lite products that contain phrases "Queen of Carbs" and "Owned by South African Breweries," according to the motion.
Miller also provided photos to the court of Miller Lite with stickers that bear the Bud Light logo and say, "All light beers are low in carbs. Choose on Taste."
Read on for more.
Ads from Miller's Bud bashing campaign:
President of Beers by W+K, Portland.
MGD-"Break Up at the Bar" by Martin Agency, Richmond, VA.
From SI, May24,2004 issue.
Copy: Beer Drinkers of America:
Recently, it has been brought to our attention that our honorable opposition have anointed themselves the King of Beers. Yes, you read correctly: The King of Beers.
Perhaps they didn't get the memo.
This is America! We don't kowtow to a bunch of tiara-wearing crumpet eaters. No, if we are to believe the textbooks, America is a democracy with a little something called Freedom of Choice.
To that end, we are hereby announcing Miller's candidacy for the President of Beers.
Here's our platform.
Miller Lite - the great-tasting, less-filling beer with half the carbs of Bud Light.
Miller Genuine Draft - a beer with genuine flavor that's cold-filtered smooth.
People, the choice is yours.
But remember, when you cast your vote for Miller, you're casting a vote for democracy, hot dogs, apple pie, baseball, miniature golf, double dating, a rich variety of cheeses, two major oceans, a terrific space program, a Consititution with NO spelling errors, the right to a free and televised trial, beer of unquestionable character, color and flavor and the whole big AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE!
P.S. The fate of the beer world hangs in the balance. Choose wisely. Thx.
From SI May 31, 2004 issue.
From SI May 17, 2004 issue. Copy: The new fridge pack from Miller is designed to dispense cans right into your hand so you can have hte Genuine Flavor, Cold-Filtered Smoothness of Miller Genuine Draft or Great Tasting, Less Filling Miller Lite whenever you want it. It is also specially deisnged to fit in your fridge and still pack 12 cans of cold Miller Beer. The new Fridge Pack from Miller. It's the newest way to enjoy a better tasting beer.
Retaliation ads from Bud "Release the Dawgs" campaign bashing Miller:
Ran in USA Today. Copy reads: "We'll let Miller Lite spend all their time talking about carbs. At Budweiser, we'll continue to spend all our efforts making great beer."
Other weapons include radio ads featuring the Bud lizards Frankie and Louie. The reptiles make fun of Miller's "President of Beer" ad campaign, though they don't mention it by name. Also there's a Real Men of Genius ad running called the "Mister Over-The-Top Carb Counter".
Branding guru Al Ries' has some thoughts on the Miller vs. Bud situation:
I was very surprised that Anheuser-Busch answered the Miller campaign with the "Queen of Carbs" jibe.
It is never good strategy for a leader to debate a No. 2 brand. (Politicians understand this principle very well. The person out in front always tries to duck the debates.)
But here's my take on what happened. Anheuser-Busch obviously started the low-carb war with the launch of Michelob Ultra. With low carbs generating a lot of interest among beer drinkers, Miller saw an opportunity for its Lite brand to take a poke at Budweiser. And, of course, Miller Lite started to pick up market share with its low-carb campaign.
Then I think top management at Anheuser-Busch got into the act, and started screaming at the marketing people. "You started the low-carb war, now you fix it."
With top management reading them the riot act, the marketing people at Budweiser started pushing their ad agency to do something right away. And whenever you react in haste, you tend to do exactly the wrong thing.
Budweiser has got to get back to its core idea -- the "King of Beers" and the Clydesdales. Ignore low carbs, which, in my opinion, will blow away. Real beer drinkers, the core market, want to drink the hot brand, which until recently has been Bud Light.
I find this hilarious. Can you take a competitor to court because their advertising is hurting your sales? Isn't that a part of the world of business? Maybe it's just worded incorrectly- and the big issue is that they are stickering (yeah I just made up a new verb!) product that isn't theirs. I can see that being a more legitimate complaint. But it's still amusing.
It's always interesting to watch brands battle it out against each other in such a way. First Miller goes after AB, and now AB hits back just as hard. It will be up to the consumers to show what they think of these kinds of "games".
A federal judge Friday night ordered Anheuser-Busch Cos. to pull some ads in a new campaign that tweaks Miller Brewing Co. for being foreign-owned.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman said posters displayed in liquor stores falsely state Miller is owned by South African Breweries.
Philip Morris, which owned Miller, sold it to South African Brewers PLC in 2002, which formed a new company called SABMiller PLC, based in London.
In issuing a preliminary injunction, the judge said two other sets of television ads Miller wanted blocked can continue to run.
Miller wanted all the ads blocked during the Memorial Day weekend, saying they would do irreparable harm to Miller on a patriotic holiday that is typically one of the strongest for beer sales.
The judge watched commercials from both companies, including a Miller ad in which a man tries to debate a Clydesdale -- a symbol of Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser beer -- over its "American-ness," and an Anheuser-Busch ad in which two lizards discuss Miller's acquisition by a South African company.
Both beer rivals claimed victory.
"We are pleased that the judge agreed that our ads are truthful and should not be censored," said Francine Katz, Anheuser-Busch vice president of communications and consumer affairs. "We will continue to tell the public that Miller was purchased by South African Breweries and is South African-owned, a fact they seem to want to disavow."
Miller spokesman Mike Hennick said his company came out the winner.
"We're pleased that the court has found A-B's ads false and deceptive and that the court is ordering them to remove them immediately from the marketplace. We look forward to pursuing the broader issues in a trial," he said.
A date for the formal trial has not yet been set, but on June 29th the judge will hear Miller's claim for another restraining order for promotions in which Anheuser-Busch calls Miller Lite the "Queen of Carbs."
A deal was worked out Thursday (May 27th) night in which Anheuser-Busch "agreed to send a memo to all distributors reminding them that stickering or defacing competitors' products is illegal, but the company did not admit any guilt."