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Light beer ads get sophisticated

News, 13 October 2015
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NEW YORK: Brands are hoping to turn around a long-term decline in light beer sales in the US – and address the challenge of craft beers – with more sophisticated advertising appeal.

Bud Light's new spots, for example will showcase the brand's quality, while MillerCoors plans to focus marketing on women after its research showed this group accounts for 25% of light beer consumption.

David Kroll, MillerCoor's new chief marketing officer appointed in July, indicated to the Wall Street Journal that advertising would be more "clever and witty" than sophomoric in future, a recognition that the quality of humour that originally underpinned the sector's marketing had declined significantly.

The descent into puerility had come about, suggested Marty Stock, chief executive at Cavalry, because of executive turnover and changes in ownership at the major brewers.

Agencies have also been chopped and changed on a regular basis: Bud Light, seeking "breakthrough work", is on its fifth advertising agency in five years, Miller Lite on its third in three years.

The light beer sector peaked some eight years ago; since then sales have fallen sharply for these two brands. Miller Lite volumes in 2014 were down 27% and those of Bud Light 13% according to figures from Beer Marketer's Insights.

Coors Light, in contrast, is up 4% over the period but its sales topped out two years ago and have been falling since.

The market share of these leading light beer brands now stands at 31.8%, down from 35.5% in 2007, as drinkers have turned to craft beers instead – their market share has doubled to 9%.

The craft beer boom has also attracted unlikely entrants, such as workwear brand Carhartt which saw an opportunity to engage with consumers in a new way.

A year ago it launched a brand extension, Carhartt Woodsman pale ale, aimed at its core customers and which tied in with the brand's own qualities of authenticity.

Major brewers, on the other hand, are trying to buy that in – the Journal noted that just last month three of them had announced craft-beer acquisitions.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff

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