NEW YORK: Millennials are the reason that beer advertising is moving away from low-brow imagery and the objectification of women to a more sophisticated approach that can appeal to the demographic that accounts for a quarter of the volume of the market.

"The thought of being fully inclusive to women, when you speak to millennials, they're like, 'Yeah, duh'," said David Kroll, chief marketing officer at MillerCoors, the brewer.

"In some respects, beer is just catching up to the millennial mind-set," he told the New York Times.

His remarks came after the launch of a new campaign for Coors Light that focuses on empowerment rather than frat-boy humour. Climb On features images of people atop mountains and women climbing and white-water rafting and is intended to tap into the thinking of a generation more sensitive than its predecessors to chauvinistic marketing.

"It was fine to show a frat party making fun of girls five or eight years ago," according to Allen Adamson, former chairman of brand consulting firm Landor Associates. "But it's ineffective and potentially damaging to do today."

In fact, a more women-friendly approach to advertising could increase US beer sales over the next few years by between 5m and 9m barrels, suggested Britt Dougherty, senior director of marketing insights at MillerCoors.

"It takes time to undo that baggage," she said of past advertising. "We've represented a version of masculinity that wasn't appealing to women."

Heineken has also picked up on that idea with its "moderate drinkers wanted" campaign, which suggests that women are looking for men who drink less. The idea came out of research among 5,000 people across five countries that found millennials were focused on responsible drinking.

"Responsibility is becoming an active – and attractive – choice for a motivated generation who want to stay in control," said Nuno Teles, Heineken's chief marketing officer, when that campaign launched.

Not everyone is convinced by this shift away from what has always been regarded at the target market of young males.

"If you alienate your core, your credibility and relevance tumbles," pointed out brand consultant Dean Crutchfield.

"It's about your brand, your heritage, your past and your future," he said. "It's been all wrapped around the males – to suddenly unwrap that, it does carry risk."

Data sourced from New York Times, Fortune; additional content by Warc staff