As an avid drinker, quite possibly a future alcoholic (but probably not – I kind of have my shit together) and having spent a fair amount of my professional career in marketing, I’m always interested in how alcohol brands are trying to “hook the young people.” Some will use an evocative catchphrase or create a fictional Hemingway Montalban character to serve as their spokesman. Lately, my Hulu streams have been interrupted by commercials for a curious, new-ish beer from the genius scientists at a
feisty little microbrew giant/evil beer conglomerate, MillerCoors. The beer is called Miller 64, because it has 64 calories per 12 oz bottle. The commercial features a catchy jingle that sounds like an old Irish sea shanty. Except it’s about dudes on diets, the subject of soooooooo many old Irish sea shanties.
You can check out a video of the commercial after the jump, but it’s a beer commercial. Even without seeing it, you’ve already seen it, because by age 25, you’ve already seen a million of them. Literally. The spot has oversaturated lifestyle shots of youngish, aspirational twentysomething guys and the pretty bikini models who hang out with them. However, the message of the ad is less, “drink this beer and your life will be awesome” and more “drink this beer because you’re getting old and fat and need to exercise more.” With lyrics like the following, they’re aiming clearly at the calorie counting and newly “gluten-intolerant”:
We run a mile before breakfast/ Sure I had a salad for lunch/ But a Miller 64 for dinner/ Oh yes, because I’ve worked off my paunch/
So, after seeing this ad enough times for the message to seep in, I finally paid a little bit of attention to it and said to myself, “Wait. What?”
Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with dudes running a mile in the morning or eating salad for lunch. I had a salad for lunch today. It was gross, but I ate it, because I’m in my late twenties and I understand that’s what we do now. But if the reward for working out a bunch and eating an occasional lunch salad is being able to drink a beer, shouldn’t the reward be a beer that has a higher alcohol percentage than 2.9 and doesn’t taste like water? The answer is yes. To get drunk off of this beer, you’d literally need to drink twice as much of it, defeating the purpose of the insanely low calorie count (the average beer has around 150 calories per 12 oz).
The genre of the beer commercial has always been driven by manliness. Errol Morris, the best documentary filmmaker in the world (no hyperbole) did a series of nostalgia-and-masculinity drenched commercials for Miller High Life that are as good as any of his films (hyperbole). If you haven’t seen them, click through here to see the whole gallery. There are, like, 70, and they’re all phenomenal. Even the spots Morris did for High Life Light, the lower calorie version of the champagne of beers, were about being manly. Not dieting. Check out the classic “Deviled Egg” spot below. It’s not about being on a diet. It’s about a fat dude who ate so many deviled eggs, that if he wants to eat the last one, he might want to make a lighter choice on the beer. Not only is that a great spot, it’s also SUPER true.
So, the last question is who this campaign is really aimed at? I guess there is a small percentage of 21-34 year old males who only want to drink one beer in a social setting and don’t like the idea of that additional 80 calories. I know dudes like that. I don’t like them and I certainly don’t want to drink with them. But there aren’t that many of them, certainly not enough for a mass market beer brand. I think this campaign is a classic case of marketing misdirection, where the advertiser makes it seem like their message is directed at one audience when it’s really aimed at another. In this case I suspect that Miller (and their agency, Saatchi & Saatchi) was making it seem like they’re speaking to twentysomething men, when in reality they’re trying to reach twentysomething women, who might actually not mind drinking the CokeZero of beers. If anything, you can’t call a woman “a woman” for drinking a diet beer. And any guy who isn’t diabetic who orders this beer around his friends is definitely getting called a woman. That’s just what beer commercials have trained us to do.
Henry Goldman is the head writer for YR AN ADULT and is counting calories as we speak.