Miller counters Anheuser-Busch: prepares for likely spring launch of Ice Draft beer

Insiders said the nation's No. 2 brewer most likely will roll out an ice beer as early as next spring. Already, Chicago-based Leo Burnerr Co. is believed to have won the assignment and is working on creative for the brand, which may be called Miller Ice. Burnett wouldn't comment and referred calls to Miller, which would not comment on new-product plans.

"It's a situation where Miller doesn't want to wait until A-B has some leverage with their brand," said one source. "They're not convinced Bud Ice will work, but they don't want to be behind if it does."

It's a change in tactics for Miller, which waited on the sidelines when A-B launched Bud Dry, not convinced the brand would spawn a new profitable segment. That waiting paid off. The brand is in trouble, and Miller saved millions of dollars by not jumping into the fray.

But that was before MacDonough came aboard. At Miller, he already has shown the spunk that earned him a reputation at A-B for being an "in-the-trenches" marketer.

Ice beer has shown some strong early projections. Products by Labarr's and Molson have won nearly 10% of the Canadian market in only six months. But those products have a higher alcohol content than mainline premium beers, accounting for at least part of the appeal. Bud Ice doesn't exceed most premium beer alcohol levels.

The Miller ice beer would be the third ice beer product distributed by Miller since late this summer. Young & Rubicam/Chicago handles the creative for both brands.

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