Miller Turns to Web for SKYY Blue

To support its foray into the “malternative” beverage market, Miller Brewing Co. is planning to launch an extensive online advertising campaign behind the upcoming SKYY Blue product.

The marketing effort will see Miller, a unit of Philip Morris Cos. promoting SKYY Blue, which it manufactures in conjunction with Campari’s SKYY Spirits, with a Web site launching this week. A slate of rich media ads, designed by San Francisco-based Freestyle Interactive, will aim to drive traffic to the site.

Both the site and the ads are targeting 21- to 27-year-olds, which represents the core demographic for the fast-growing flavored malt, or “malternative” beverage market, which includes Adolph Coors Co.’s ten-year-old Zima and Diageo PLC’s more recent entrant Smirnoff Ice.

To reach the group — of which Freestyle Interactive estimates about four million are Internet users — rich media spots will run on sites including Maxim,, Yahoo! ,, and The buy, designed by Starcom MediaVest, aims to deliver three impressions per user over the life of the campaign.

Spending was not disclosed, though Jason Shulman, vice president of business development at Freestyle, said the online campaign’s budget represented a “sizable portion of the media mix.” The brand’s entire campaign spending is estimated at more than $40 million.

In addition to three different large rectangle-sized creatives running on several of the sites, the campaign will include a slate of eyeblaster “takeover” ads. The effort also includes a custom rich media ad on Yahoo!.

Streaming video ads on will include edited and animation-enhanced versions of SKYY Blue’s TV ad, which was designed by its agency Lambesis, and which debuted last month.

“We don’t believe, and neither does Miller, in taking a 30-second TV ad and streaming it onto the computer,” Shulman said. “We reinterpret the ad … for the Internet. It’s complementary, rather than being the same. We just feel that creatively, there’s nothing compelling about taking a TV ad and converting it into Windows Media and streaming it online.”

Ultimately, the effort will include three different rich media executions within “large rectangle” ads.

While competitors, for the most part, are taking a more direct-response oriented approach to promoting their brands online, the SKYY Blue Web ads rely heavily on Macromedia Flash to convey an overriding image of hip, urban cool.

The SKYY Blue drinker is “a little more upscale than your typical Gen-Y candidate,” Shulman said. “They’re a little more the sophisticated, club-hopping type.”

Compared to efforts like Smirnoff Ice’s current “Not Your Average Night” sweepstakes — which offers access to Maxim magazine hotel parties throughout the country — “ours is a very brand-awareness campaign,” he said. “For us, the person who goes and drops $100 a night at a club in New York City is not the person who’s going to enter a sweepstakes… there’s a disconnect there.”

“This is a true branding exercise. A lot of people say they’re doing that … but I’m not seeing anyone really beyond Unilever trying it,” said Shulman, who added that Miller had retained Dynamic Logic to track the campaign’s branding effectiveness.

The campaign comes amid increasing competition among the big distillers and brewers for domination of the malternative space, which industry analysts say saw more than 25 percent growth in revenues last year, and could be poised to more than double this year.

Those expectations of growth — which simultaneously eats into sales of beer and spirits — has caused the category of beverages to explode. In addition to Zima and Smirnoff Ice, the U.S.’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch, stepped into the fray in February with Bacardi Silver.

Diageo, meanwhile, has plans to counter Bacardi with a malt version of Captain Morgan, while Miller is prepping two more brands in conjunction with spirits distillers, Stolichnaya Citrona and Sauza Diablo.

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