Restrained and observational is rarely how you’d describe beer advertising humor yet a new campaign for Miller Lite employs just that. Set in a local bodega, run by the sage and all-knowing shopkeeper Fred, the campaign applies subtle humor and a little bit of wisdom to a series of slice-of-life stories.
With Fred behind the counter—played with understated brilliance by Marco Rodriguez of Eastbound and Down fame—a rotating cast of characters enters the bodega in search of beer, each with a particular quirk. There is the overly zealous karaoke fan, eager to burst into song, and there’s the woman looking for a card for her bestie (who also happened to steal her boyfriend in high school). There are the synchronized twins who insist they’re actually nothing alike, and then there’s silver-painted street performers who freeze like statues in the presence of strangers. At the center of it all is Fred, offering little tidbits of advice and relating with each customer on their own level.
In all, the campaign created by TBWA\Chiat\Day LA is a refreshing departure from standard beer advertising fare. As director Matt Aselton of Arts & Sciences says: “The market seems to be rich with plenty of, let’s just say less subtle, beer advertising, so it seemed like a nice way of telling personal stories and not jock rock archetypal stories. It’s like Sesame Street–the people in your neighborhood—except with a lite beer.”
The concept of the bodega itself was inspired by great cinematic convenience stores like those in Wayne Wang/Paul Auster’s films Smoke and Blue in the Face, and Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee and Cigarettes, and the little chapters such a setting affords. “People drop in and out of the bodega; anything is possible,” Aselton says.
As for the bodega’s constant tender, Fred, he’s modeled after Harvey Keitel, according to Aselton. “He’s a good listener, a bystander, a friend, he can keep a secret; he’s got your back.” He’s also the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with.