The Light Stuff

It's a busy night at Govnr's Park, and Monday Night Football blares from every television in the crowded sports bar.

Commercial breaks are usually the perfect time to run to the bathroom or belly up to the bar for another round. But when the Coors Light "Love Songs" ad appears, the Metro State College students gathered around one table perk right up and pay very close attention.

I love football on TV,
Shots of Gina Lee,
Hanging with my friends,
And twins!

I love burritos at 4 a.m.,
Parties that never end,
Dogs that love cats,
And twins!


"I think that they're good commercials," says Brandon Tarbell, a 21-year-old from Albuquerque who's studying industrial design. "I like the snow; I like the bikinis. It's obviously very flagrant, but it's a good campaign, and they're reaching their target market. Me."

Babes, boards and loud rock and roll: This ain't your daddy's Coors Brewing Company.

The new Coors Light ads have been damn near impossible to miss on TV this football season, and you can't head down I-25 or Sixth Avenue without seeing the large billboards featuring blond twins in skimpy tank tops -- and a much, much smaller Coors Light logo. "I drive by those billboards every day," says Tarbell, "and they definitely grab my attention every time."

What do the twins -- 26-year-old Diane and Elaine Klimaszewski, the youngest children of Polish immigrants -- have to do with beer? Absolutely nothing. But they attract -- and how! -- young men, and that's the group that Coors, the nation's third-largest brewer, thought it was missing.

"Our main goal is to engage Coors Light with the 21- to 25-year-old males," says Ron Askew, chief marketing officer for Coors, who has shaken things up since he joined the company in October 2001. "We had lost traction with that group, and I felt that showing that we could fit into their lifestyle was the most effective way to get back in there."

For years, Coors specialized in stately ads starring Chairman Peter Coors, who walked past babbling streams in scenic mountain areas and talked quietly about beer brewed with "Rocky Mountain water" taken directly from a source in the Golden-based brewer's back yard. But then Askew came on board, and Coors announced that it had signed a five-year, $300 million deal to be the official sponsor of the National Football League, and everything changed. Coors advertising -- particularly Coors Light advertising -- has gone from simple and understated to in-your-face and over-the-top, seemingly overnight.

Askew, who'd been vice president of marketing and new business development for Frito-Lay before going on to found the Integer Group, a local advertising agency that had done a lot of work for Coors, immediately yanked the "Ready for a Cold One?" ads, a lighthearted series showing two buddies sitting on a couch, with one pulling a lever to drop a pile of snow, a polar bear or an Eskimo on his friend. He ordered them replaced with more upbeat ads, all featuring active lifestyle shots cut to fast-paced music.

"Our advertising clearly looks different than it did a year ago," says Hilary Martin, group manager of corporate communications at Coors. "Historically, our target market had been 29-plus, but we weren't relevant to 21- to 25-year-olds, which is a critical group that we hadn't developed before. We wanted to be really visceral with that group, be on target with the music, the sociability, hanging out with friends."

Most industry experts agree that by the time the average beer drinker reaches his late twenties, he will have settled on one brand that he'll drink loyally for the rest of his life. That makes it critical to win over the hearts and minds -- and groins, and wallets -- of this younger demographic.

In order to determine the best way to reach this group, Coors researchers hit the town. Askew, a married father of three who lives in Evergreen, spent some serious time in saloons discovering what makes young -- yet legal -- beer drinkers tick. "We went out there and hung out at bars to learn the culture," says Askew. "I want to be close to my consumer, and that's the fun part of my job, sitting there on a bar stool thinking, 'I can't believe that I get paid to do this.'

"We have dramatically increased our research budget so that we can almost anticipate, like the fashion and entertainment industries do, what the next trend will be," he adds. "It all goes so quickly now, you really have to work to stay connected. This is the generation that grew up with computers. They're used to the next upgrade, and they get bored very quickly."

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Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn