Miller Lite's ‘Catfight' ad angers some viewers

Michael McCarthy USA TODAY

Beermakers have been criticized for “beer and babes” ads that depict women as sexual objects. But a new Miller Brewing TV spot is being compared to some of the most notorious beer ads of the past, such as Old Milwaukee’s “Swedish Bikini Team.”

The Miller Lite commercial, called “Catfight,” goes from a poolside argument into an angry, clothes-shredding, wrestling match between two women who end up in bras and panties. The ad has been broadcast to millions of homes during National Football League playoff games.

The controversial spot has angered some TV viewers — 200 of whom have e-mailed their displeasure to the Milwaukee brewer.

“Every time I see it, I cringe,” says Laura Ries, an image guru. “It’s explicit. It’s degrading. It has no real message, except all men are idiots and all they think about are girls mud wrestling.”

For Miller, a distant second to Anheuser-Busch in domestic beer sales, the hubbub comes at a time when top management is being reshuffled. A new CEO was named Tuesday, though the change was unrelated to the controversy.

The buzz about the in-your-face spot keeps growing: CNN’s Crossfire debated it last week. Stuff magazine wants to shoot a photo layout of the ad’s stars.

Miller executives say the spot is a hit with its target audience: 21-to-31-year-old beer drinkers. “They see it for what it is: a hysterical insight into guys’ mentality,” says Tom Bick, Miller Lite brand manager. “It’s really a lighthearted spoof of guys’ fantasies.”

The ad starts with two beautiful women turning the classic Miller Lite debate of “tastes great, less filling” into a brawl. They fall into a pool while ripping each other’s clothes off and end up wrestling in a pit filled with concrete.

The ad cuts to a bar. It turns out the catfight was the fantasy of two guys as their idea of a great ad. A cable version of the ad ends with the brunette saying to the blonde: “Let’s make out.”

Miller has received 400 e-mails, with the debate running 50-50 for and against, says Miller Lite spokesman Ron Acosta. Most of the complaints are from over-40 married women with families.

The NFL has gotten a “handful of complaints,” reports spokesman Brian McCarthy. Executives at ABC, Fox and CBS report no viewer complaints. That could change. Miller may run “Catfight” on prime-time shows and sitcoms, Bick says.

But Bick wants to know why Miller is getting slammed for content “that’s a lot tamer than some of the reality TV shows popular with consumers.”

The commercial, designed to draw attention to Miller Lite’s new logo and packaging, has been airing since Jan. 1 during NFL playoffs, college football games and late-night TV.