Reductive? Sure. Misogynistic? God yes. Accurate? Erm... not really. But who needs truth in advertising when there are ladies? At the turn of the '90s, Old Milwaukee needed both, but had neither. The brand (then a piece of the once-strong Stroh's empire) had lost touch with the 21-35-year-old demographic it desperately needed to remain competitive with hard-charging nationals like Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller. It needed a booster shot of sexy to rejuvenate its image.
Getting Milwaukee's groove back
"In the '60s and '70s, Old Milwaukee was right up there competing with Schlitz and the other ‘everyman’ brands," explained Patrick Scullin, the creative director at San Francisco's Hal Riney & Partners who led the group that'd eventually conceive the Swedish Bikini Team in 1991. But by the '90s, "the brand was tarnished -- it was perceived as ‘your father’s beer’." So in the time-honored tradition of client-agency relations everywhere, Old Milwaukee execs looked to Scullin's team for a new image. Sort of.
"They were open to fresh ideas as long as we kept the equities of [their old] campaign: appeal to blue collar men; feature outdoor activities; maintain high energy; keep the slogan; and be fun," wrote Scullin in a 2008 blog post titled "The Swedish Bikini Team Legend". (Old Milwaukee could not be reached for comment in time for this story's deadline.) But there was a problem: the old campaign wasn't fun.
The girls looked fake -- exactly the "Monty Pythonesque notion" they were going for
"The original commercials would always be very formulaic [around the same slogan the brand had used for years]," recalled Scullin, who was speaking to me via phone from Atlanta, where he now works as Managing Creative Partner at Ames Scullin O'Haire. "There'd be a gathering of guys (always all men) doing outdoorsy, manly stuff -- shooting rapids, climbing, hiking, whatever. At the end, they’d crack open Old Milwaukees, toast each other, and say, ‘Guys, it doesn’t get any better than this’." But pretty much anything would be better than this: