Bud Says Ads 'Disparage,' CBS, NBC Drop Miller's Carriage
On Nov. 2, Anheuser-Busch filed formal challenges with all four national television networks against SABMiller's ad series on the basis that the commercials are misleading. CBS concurred with the challenge to three spots--which alleged that SABMiller's taste-test studies comparing its brands to those of Anheuser-Busch used flawed testing that biased results in SABMiller's favor. The results of the study were the foundation of an advertising campaign that has aired since June.
In a statement, CBS concluded that these ads are "unduly disparaging of Budweiser and Bud Light," and two of the ads in which people are shown to be using a bullhorn outside an Anheuser-Busch brewery "convey an unsubstantiated preference claim."
In addition, before SABMiller can again air two other discontinued ads that make claims about on-premise taste challenges in Chicago and St. Louis, the company would need to resolve the issues raised by Anheuser-Busch before CBS would again air those spots.
"We are very pleased that CBS agreed with us on SABMiller's claims and will be pulling these ads," said Michael J. Owens, vice president of sales and marketing for Anheuser-Busch. "We have said all along that SABMiller's claims are fabricated. By using these shady practices, SABMiller is admitting its products can't stand up to fair comparisons."
The CBS decision included the following:
The network validated Miller's basic taste-test claim and the methodology behind that claim.
Of the 11 ads that A-B complained about, CBS ruled that two of them, in which consumers talk through a megaphone outside an A-B brewery, could be interpreted as making preference insinuations that were not part of Miller's actual taste claims.
CBS also agreed that one ad that depicted a Budweiser delivery guy in "men's Capri pants" was disparaging to Anheuser-Busch.
For its part, Miller said that it was not surprised that the network had validated its basic competitive proposition.
"We've got a strong message--Miller Lite has more taste and half the carbs of Bud Light--and we are not surprised that the network validated it," said Bob Mikulay, Miller's executive vice president of marketing. "We are sorry Anheuser-Busch did not enjoy the 'Capri Pants' or 'Megaphone' spots as much as consumers did."
This was apparently Round Two in the ad wars between the two beer marketers.
Last spring, Miller Brewing, the subsidiary of SABMiller, initiated and then ceased its legal challenge to Anheuser-Busch ads that labeled Miller Lite the "Queen of Carbs." Miller had filed for an injunction in May, arguing that A-B's "Queen of Carbs" sobriquet was misleading and denigrating. The next month, Miller dropped the court case, citing its market research showing that A-B's ads have not adversely affected Miller Lite sales.