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Beer sales decline, despite 'cat fight'

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 business commentator

Dallas, TX – Finally the truth be told: sex does not sell beer. I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Midday.

Maybe your mouth dropped along with mine last January when the Miller Lite "Catfight" first appeared on TV. That's the commercial where two very buxom women rip off their clothes and go at each other in a public fountain. "Tastes great," "No less filling." It is the obvious fantasy of two guys sitting at a bar. The ad tries to redeem itself from this overt sexism by showing two women with a disgusted glare sitting next to these guys. Using a quote by the late film critic Pauline Kael, The New York Times said the ad was like "brushing your teeth while eating a candy bar."

Then there are the two subsequent ads: one of the women turns into a male wrestler, and two guys - in a woman's fantasy - get in touch with their sensitive side. And AdAge said a fourth one will begin airing next week. Open-shirted Pamela Anderson will get into a "pillow fight" with two other women - with very few clothes on.

It's not like commercials haven't been using beautiful women and sex to sell beer before. But never with so little regard for the product and so much attention on breasts. So has the ad campaign - and all the hype surrounding it - helped the sales of Miller Lite? The Times reports the beer has been experiencing declining sales. And since the ad first appeared 5 months ago, all it's done is slow the decline. A reversal is what they were looking for.

According to Beer Marketer's Insight, a trade publication, compared with the same time last year, supermarket sales (which account for about a fifth of all beer sales) showed Miller Lite fell 1.3%. And quoting the Times, as maintained by Marketer's Insight, "In Texas, the biggest state for Miller Lite, the brand's sales in all retail outlets fell 19% in the first quarter."

Miller sales had nothing to do with it, but the ads will end within a few months. Let this be a lesson for all agencies; the public is smarter than you think. For KERA Marketplace Midday, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 p.m.

Email Maxine Shapiro about this story.