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Sketchy Advertising

September 30, 2007 9:00 PM

The Aug. 31 sketch started innocuously enough: NBC’s "Late Night" host Conan O’Brien joked to bandleader Max Weinberg that Miller had asked him to do an ad for its new Miller Chill beer, but he had refused because doing so would cheapen his image. Mr. Weinberg suggested Mr. O’Brien shoot and air the ad in Japan, where American viewers wouldn’t see it. Seconds later, viewers were watching an anime version of Mr. Weinberg, with Miller Chill bottles for arms, slaying a dragon as two giggling Japanese women looked on. So is that a sketch or an ad, anyway? "I’d call it a ‘live’ commercial, with the ‘live’ in quotation marks because it was pre-taped," said Shari Post, VP of daytime and late-night sales at NBC. "I wouldn’t call it a sketch." As Ms. Post explains it, NBC pitched the idea of a Conan-written spot to Miller after it got wind of the No. 2 U.S. brewer’s ambitious national launch plans for Chill, its new lime-and-salt-infused light beer. Brewers are constantly looking for ways to reach elusive 20-somethings, and Mr. O’Brien’s audience is rife with them. For a cost of "definitely more than a 30-second spot," according to Ms. Post, Miller didn’t get any input into the writing of the sketch, but it was able to review—and could have vetoed—the finished product, primarily in order to make sure it didn’t contain any underage drinking scenes. —Jeremy Mullman, Advertising Age

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