Well, good news, I found one of those ads.
I've embedded it below, but first it good to know a bit more about the tale for the product that had been known as The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.
The ads were conceived (or ill-conceived...) by the otherwise excellent Leo Burnett Agency in Chicago. They had to be rushed out for some reason, so the agency didn't have a chance to fully test them, only test the concept somewhat quickly with shoppers. They almost as quickly were pulled from the air when a far-larger sample of the public actually saw them and reacted really badly.
As this article here in the Chicago Tribune noted, Schlitz had been the #2 beer in the country, after Budweiser, but virtually disappeared within the next 20 years. (The 2008 article came about because Pabst Brewing Company announced it was bringing the label back.)
The piece makes clear that there were many reasons for Schlitz's demise, including changing the recipe and brewing process, which caused more than just a flavor problem and 10 million bottles had to be recalled, and there also were some crippling labor troubles in 1981. The company was sold to Stroh's which itself went out of business in 1999. And then sold to Pabst, which largely put the beer in hiatus until finally reconstructing the original formula and bringing it back a few years ago.. But the article also makes very clear --
"But in charting how Schlitz went flat, don't underestimate the contribution of the TV commercials it ran in the late 1970s in a desperate bid to hold on to market share but which had entirely the opposite effect.
"It's gone down in popular lore as the Drink Schlitz or I'll Kill You campaign, an example of being too edgy and not too sharp all at once.
"In advertising circles, it's held up as a cautionary tale. You know, cut through the clutter but don't stab the client -- that sort of thing."
A very detailed history of Schlitz's many problems can be found here on Beerconnoisseur.com. And within those many problems, it too notes the infamous, "Buy Schlitz, or I'll kill you" ads -- which it says that the public didn't find "amusing" like the company thought, but rather "menacing."
In writing about this on Sunday, I made mention of the one ad that has stood out in my memory all this time, the mountain man and his cougar. And ad referred to in the Tribune article, as well, and other articles I've read. To be clear, it's not the only really bad one in the series (I believe another was a boxer threatening to beat up the announcer to a bloody pulp.) But it's the most memorable.
And as I said, I tracked it down. Not just one of the ads in the series, but the mountain man and his cougar.
Keep in mind that this was aired at a different time and era, almost 40 years ago. And that when it aired, the public wasn't primed that this is really bad and you will hate it. It was just an ad that popped up on TV as the public was minding its own business. And it wasn't just this ad, but another one, too, -- and another and another, that kept pounding its threatening message.
As the Tribune article quips at the end, the tag line for the ad seems like it should have been, "This blood's for you."