Miller Lite is invading Bud Light’s “Dilly Dilly” medieval kingdom with two attack ads airing during March Madness broadcasts.
The latest salvo in the escalating Corn Syrup War is a mock behind-the scenes look at the Bud Light Super Bowl ads, where the costumed knights and crew crack open cans of Miller Lite when the fantasy world filming is over.
The new tag line is: In the real world, more taste is what matters.
“We’re using their Dilly Dilly world as a foil,” said Anup Shah, vice president for the Miller brands at Chicago-based MillerCoors.
“This is simply a way to pivot the message back from corn syrup to our message: more taste, less calories. We feel good about the spots.”
Bud Light started the Corn Syrup War with an ad during last month’s Super Bowl TV broadcast, in which the mythical king leads a quest to return corn syrup mistakenly delivered to his castle to Miller Lite and Coors Light.
“We don’t brew Bud Light with corn syrup,” the king proclaims during the spot.
In response, MillerCoors pulled out of a long-planned industry advertising collaboration with Bud Light brewer Anheuser-Busch, and defended its use of corn syrup in the brewing process in full page ads and on social media.
MillerCoors does not add high fructose corn syrup, which some consumers avoid as a potential health risk, to its beer, the company said.
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Now MillerCoors is going on the offensive with the new TV campaign, which debuted on air when the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off Thursday. The spots will be in heavy rotation during March Madness broadcasts, Shah said.
Created by ad agency DDB Chicago and filmed in Slovenia, the two commercials replicate Bud Light’s medieval world, with some plot twists.
One spot, “Aftermath,” picks up amid the carnage of Bud Light’s “Game of Thrones” Super Bowl ad. When the director yells “cut,” the vanquished Bud Light Knight rises, takes his helmet off, puts his glasses on and grabs a Miller Lite from the cooler.
The second spot, “Snow,” follows two actors released from punishment in the stocks who make a beeline for a bucket filled with Miller Lite.
For its part, Anheuser-Busch is not backing down. The beer maker posted a response video online Wednesday featuring its fictional king pontificating on the new Miller Lite attack ads.
“Look, if you’re this set on imitating our kingdom, may I suggest also imitating us by putting an ingredients label on your packaging,” the king says in the spot, “Imitation,” which also is set to air on TV.
Andy Goeler, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, issued a corporate response as well, echoing the king’s sentiments
“In the real world, people want to know what’s in their beer,” Goeler said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
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“We hope MillerCoors is also planning to imitate us by adding ingredient labels to their packaging. It’s good for the consumer and the right thing for the beer industry too.”
The fight between Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors comes as the taste for beer more broadly is waning.
Beer sales, which peaked at 214.7 million barrels in 2008, have fallen 4 percent to about 206 million barrels last year.
The growth of wine and spirits has drained some of beer’s market share, but less demand from younger drinkers has also played a role.
Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite are the three largest-selling beer brands in the United States, and all are losing market share faster than the industry.
As with many conflicts, however, ending the Corn Syrup War may require deft and persistent peace negotiations.
Bud Light’s Goeler said the beer-maker will “continue to push transparency forward.”
MillerCoors won’t talk peace — or pull its new attack ads — until at least one demand is met, Shah said.
“Bud Light needs to stop spewing misleading information, stop trying to tie corn syrup to high-fructose corn syrup, stop trying to denigrate the category,” he said.
“We’ll see how this plays out.”