Why Millerís Hip Admen Are Out on Their Beer

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Anybody remember "Dick," the shaggy (and fictional) Gen-X ad exec for Miller Lite? Well, Dick Ė- or at least the agency that created him Ė- just got fired. Minneapolis-based Fallon McElligott, which created "Dick" and other quirky, water-cooler-worthy spots like the three cowboys singing "Adios Amigos" to their ingested brews as they head to the bathroom, is off the account. And the hipness revolution that was supposed to change advertising a few years back may be stuck on a simple problem: It isnít moving the merchandise. Distributors complained that the ads were too confusing, Miller Liteís sales hadnít picked up the way parent company Philip Morris hoped they would, and the Miller Lite account is back in the sure hands of an industry elder statesman, New York-based Ogilvy & Mather.

When the "Dick" campaign got the media elite buzzing a few years back, some heralded it as a tectonic shift in advertisingís center of gravity, from familiar Madison Avenue to cutting-edge boonies like Minneapolis. It was perhaps telling that Miller also yanked a Portland, Ore.-based agency, Wieden & Kennedy, off its Genuine Draft account, though the agency will keep hawking Miller High Life. Maybe itís just a beer problem. In an arena where the Budweiser frog is king, it was Fallon McElligottís awkward "hops or smoothness" retread of Millerís "tastes great, less filling" jock-vertising classics that kept them in Millerís good graces this long. The lesson, it seems, is one that the late and legendary David Ogilvy knew well: Creativity, wit and envelope-pushing are all well and good. But only if they make you want to get drunk.