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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Barbara Lippert

Aired June 5, 2003 - 20:51   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the really hard-hitting part of the program. When it comes to selling beer, has sex lost its fizz? You can make that argument judging from the reaction to a series of Miller Lite beer commercials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't Miller Lite taste great?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less filling!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait, wait, wait, wait. What about this?

Doesn't Miller Lite taste great? Great taste. It's great taste.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Less filling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. Maybe that wasn't a great commercial. Some critics say Miller Lite's series of cat fight ads were just too raunchy. Others say they didn't produce an increase in sales. Either way, according to published reports, the company's planning to discontinue this particular campaign and that got us wondering what makes a sexy commercial fail, or for that matter, succeed.

Barbara Lippert is from "Ad Week." She is here to help.

Barbara, thanks for being with us.

BARBARA LIPPERT, "AD WEEK": Anderson, thank you.

COOPER: All right, these ads -- Pamela Anderson is in the newest one, but there's been a series of them for Miller Lite. It's all basically the same thing. Women...

LIPPERT: Right.

COOPER: ..scantily clad...

LIPPERT: Wonderful actresses, you know having these great, you know, Shakespearian lines. Tastes great, less filling. And, it's like, you cannot underestimate, you know, the attraction to numatic boobs and lesbian scenarios the way Howard Stern would want it.

COOPER: Well, that's what the advertisers thought in doing this. LIPPERT: Right. Right. Exactly.

COOPER: But it hasn't really worked out. Why?

LIPPERT: I think there was a lot of backlash, more than they expected. People are tired...

COOPER: A lot of negative comments.

LIPPERT: Yes. People are getting tired of being bombarded in their homes where their childrens are with this soft porn stuff.

And I think that i was a bit ingenious. They wrapped it up in like a postmodern thing where it's a commercial within a commercial and they have these demographically correct people in the bar, Wouldn't that be great? And the women going, Uh.

But still, it's -- what they have done is saying, We're being honest. We're desperate for sales, so we're using T and A.

COOPER: And the sale shave not risen.

LIPPERT: No. No.

I think Miller has more problems than just his campaign. The problem is, they're very inconsistent. You know, Budweiser has certain things running forever and Miller goes to one thing and another. They only gave this six months. That's not enough to really test how sales will be affected.

COOPER: It's an interesting question, though, because in some cases sex obviously does work to sell. We're going to show a Coors Light ad that, you know, clearly has a lot of sexual overtones to it. We'll try to switch that over.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love football on TV, shots of Gina Lee, hanging with my friends, and twins. I love...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right. This is the Coors Light ad. And this, you say, works.

LIPPERT: Yes, and maybe you can tell me what the attraction with twins is? I guess it started with Playboy and the Barbie twins, but it comes of that same kind of fetishistic, you know, Maxim magazine.

COOPER: Don't get me started on twins, because to me it goes back to the Bobsey Twins and Olsen Twins.

LIPPERT: Right. I find it kind of creepy, but apparently it's done very well for Coors. But, of course, there are other marketing efforts.

COOPER: So sex works when it's linked to the product in an appropriate way?

LIPPERT: Well, in a more natural way.

I mean, I'm not a great fan of the Victoria's Secret ads, but they're selling underwear. Naturally you're going to see women's bodies.

You know, when you're think of beer, the most natural link is not, you know, cement wrestling.

COOPER: Right. We've got the Victoria's ads. We're going to show those as well.

And that -- you're saying people will accept it or they're not going to complain because...

(CROSSTALK)

LIPPERT: These are actually toned down and they're either trying to be artful -- they're trying to be, like, sort of soft artful I guess, you know, in the posing and -- I guess, you know, ABC made a whole show out of this, so it's acceptable.

But, you know, it is selling bras and it was ridiculous when bras weren't allowed to be seen on television. Now it's the reverse.

COOPER: Well how does watching a sexy commercial translate into someone saying, All right, I'm going to go out and buy that product. I mean, Victoria's Secrets, I can see. You like the way the underwear looks, you want to buy the product. But beer -- what's the connection?

LIPPERT: Well, advertisers are like sharks. They have to keep moving ahead. And we keep getting these different sexual scenarios and you keep having to up the ante to, you know, -- to shock people and make it provocative. So we're running out of things.

So, you know, you go full tilt and full circle when you get to Pam Anderson.

COOPER: But it's interesting the linkage that I guess they assume that viewer makes in their mind -- an attractive woman, if I have this bee I will somehow

LIPPERT: Well, certainly, it's titillating -- I shouldn't say that word.

But also ,I think for Miller it got them a lot of attention. Everybody was talking about Miller Lite and no one had been talking about it in years. But it didn't translate to sales because the packaging, perhaps the distribution, the taste.

COOPER: Right.

LIPPERT: Who knows? They're going to have to make much bigger choices in order to move the brand ahead. COOPER: We'll see what they come up with next.

LIPPERT: But sex certainly gets attention. It doesn't mean anybody going to buy anything, but they're going to look. Their eyeballs are going to go like cartoons. Boom!

COOPER: Oh yeah? We have a story about that coming up.

Barbara Lippert, "Ad Week," appreciate you joining us.

LIPPERT: Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks.

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