History of Miller Lite
Essentially the first mainstream light beer, Miller Lite has a colorful history.
After its first inception as "Gablinger's Diet Beer," which was created in 1967
by Joseph L. Owades, a biochemist working for New York's Rheingold Brewery, the
recipe was given to one of Miller's competing breweries, Chicago's Meister Brau,
which came out with the Meister Brau "Lite" brand in the late 1960s. When Miller
acquired Meister Brau's labels the recipe was reformulated and relaunched as "Lite
Beer from Miller" in the test markets of Springfield, IL and San Diego, CA in
1973, and heavily marketed using masculine pro sports players and other macho
figures of the day in an effort to sell to the key beer-drinking male
demographic. Miller's approach worked where the two previous light beers had
failed, and Miller's early production totals of 12.8 million barrels quickly
increased to 24.2 million barrels by 1977 as Miller rose to 2nd place in the
American brewing marketplace. Other brewers responded, especially Anheuser-Busch
with its heavily advertised Bud Light in 1982, which eventually overtook Lite in
1994. In 1992 light beer became the biggest domestic beer in America.
Miller Lite's long-running "Great Taste...Less Filling!" advertising campaign
was ranked by Advertising Age magazine as the 8th best advertising campaign in
history. The campaign was developed by the ad agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide.
In the prime of the campaign, television commercials typically portrayed a
Miller Lite drinker noting its great taste followed by another who observed that
it was less filling. This usually led to a parody of Wild West saloon fights in
which every patron got involved in the dispute for no real reason, though in
this case it was always a shouting match, and blows were never thrown. The
commercials were closed with a voiceover from actor Eddie Barth who read the
slogan, "Lite Beer from Miller; everything you want from a beer and less ".
As part of this campaign, Miller Brewing ran a series of highly distinctive
television commercials in the winter of 1993–1994 showing several fictitious
"extreme sports" such as "Wiener Dog Drag Racing", "Sumo High Dive"and "The Miss
Perfect Face-Off" (which featured beauty pageant contestants playing ice
hockey). The tag line that followed was, "If you can combine great taste with
less filling, you can combine anything."
In 1996, Miller Lite ran the "Life Is Good" campaign, which showed Miller Lite
drinkers' aspirational transition to more fun via a Miller Lite bottle tap, like
"Beach Rewind," where three men on a beach admired three beautiful women walking
by, and could rewind, and enjoy, the scene repeatedly. The campaign was
developed by Leo Burnett Company, and received the American Marketing
Association EFFIE award for outstanding advertising effectiveness. The campaign
included celebrities such as Larry Bird, Keith Jackson, and Richard Karn.
Beginning January 12, 1997, a series of surreal Miller Lite ads, purportedly
made by a man named "Dick", began to air. They were hallmarked as such either at
the beginning or the end of the commercial. The series of "Dick" commercials was
directed by Gerald Casale of the new wave band Devo. Such commercials include
one where a middle-aged man sees the message "twist to open" on a Miller Lite
bottlecap, and he proceeds to do the Twist.
In 2002, "Catfight", another high-profile commercial in the long-running "Great
Taste...Less Filling" campaign, was denounced by critics as depicting women as
In 2006, Miller Lite had an advertising campaign called Man Laws featuring
celebrities that include actor Burt Reynolds, professional wrestler Triple H,
comedian Eddie Griffin, and former American football player Jerome Bettis. The
celebrities and along with other actors were in a "Men of the Square Table", a
group meeting where they discuss different situations that should be included in
the "Man Laws". The ads were developed by the ad agency, Crispin Porter +
Bogusky/Miami, and were directed by comedy film director Peter Farrelly.
In the sport of NASCAR, Miller began advertising their Miller Genuine Draft beer
on the #27 Pontiac of Rusty Wallace (later #2). Wallace switched to a Ford in
1994, and Miller switched their sponsorship to Miller Lite a couple years later
in 1997. That sponsorship continues to this day, now on the #2 Dodge, driven by
Kurt Busch, after Wallace retired in 2005.