The story behind the ad below…
Back in the early 70s, the Miller Brewing Company had acquired Meister Brau Lite, and was looking for a good way to promote the rebranded “Lite” beer. How do you get beer drinkers to go for what is essentially a “diet” beer? Miller’s ad agency, McCann-Erickson, came up with the idea of getting famous “tough guy” athletes to be in the ads.
Football great Matt Snell did the honors in the first ad in the campaign:
The campaign took off, and went national in 1975. Miller asked McCann-Erickson to remind people that the beer also tasted great (or at least no worse than regular Miller). NBA player/coach Tommy Heinsohn argued the point with former NBA referee Mendy Rudolph, and before anyone knew it, the “Less filling / Tastes Great” slogan went viral:
The ads went for the funny bone, as athletes (and other famous tough guys like writer Mickey Spillane) poked fun at themselves.
Bubba Smith loved the easy opening cans:
Baseball “legend” Marv Throneberry was worried about his possible effect on Miller:
George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin stopped fighting long enough to do an ad together:
To this day, I remember boxing great Joe Frazier not for his prowess in the ring, but for this musical number:
Like Bubba Smith, Pro Bowling great Don Carter also loved the easy opening cans:
Hockey great (and flake) Pete Stemkowski said he’d only do a spot if Miller let him tell a Polish joke. They must have agreed, since after making the pitch, “Stemmer” told a joke – in Polish. It wasn’t translated, but when Canadian hockey legends Jacques Plante and Bernie “Boom-Boom” Geoffrion had the “Less filling / Tastes great” argument in French, there were subtitles.
Eventually, they had a large enough collection of athletes under contract so they started doing “reunion” spots. This was the first one, which aired in 1977:
I don’t know the year that this Christmas ad ran, but you could probably date it according to the people who appeared in it:
Jim Honochick (baseball umpire)
And this year, may you indeed get everything you want in a holiday season…
(More on the ad campaign here: http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/63816024)