NBC O&O set to run liquor ad

Aug 6, 2001  •  Post A Comment

In a precedent-setting move, a TV station owned by one of the Big 3 networks has given the tentative OK to run a commercial for a distilled-spirit beverage.
WJAR-TV, the NBC-owned station in Providence, R.I., will likely run a commercial for Baileys Irish Cream next month.
“We anticipate, if the creative is acceptable-and we haven’t seen it yet-that yes, we will run the spots,” said WJAR President and General Manager Lisa Churchville.
NBC allowing its owned station to run the ad is a landmark decision. Baileys, consisting primarily of Irish cream and Irish whiskey, has an alcohol content of 17 percent by volume.
“Baileys is definitely considered a distilled-spirit product,” said Lisa Hawkins, vice president of public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
While nearly 200 TV stations have run distilled-spirits ads since 1996, when Seagram broke the hard-liquor ban with an ad for Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey, none have run on ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox, or on any of the TV stations owned and operated by those networks.
For years, the networks and their owned stations only ran ads for beer, malt liquor and wine. These products have an alcohol content by volume of up to about 14 percent. More recently, a number of network-owned stations have taken ads for beverages such as Smirnoff Ice, which has an alcohol content close to that of beer.
“The important thing in what this NBC station is doing is really psychological, but it’s significant nonetheless,” said one media buyer. “It will be the first time, to my knowledge, that a network-owned station will have run an ad for a distilled-spirit drink.
“If this goes well, and I can’t imagine why it would not, I predict that by this time next year you’ll see them advertising distilled spirit beverages with significantly more alcohol content. And then, once it’s on the O&Os, it’ll eventually migrate to the networks themselves.”
Ms. Churchville would only say that the consideration of hard-liquor ads with higher alcohol content “is not a bridge I’ve crossed yet. We feel that it’s realistic right now to expand into the low-proof beverages.” The spots for Baileys, if the creative is acceptable, will run after 11:30 p.m., she said. The J. Walter Thompson advertising agency is creating the spot. The media buyer is MediaVest, New York.
In the last 21/2 years, the only advertising Baileys has done on TV was a limited number of spots on eight stations in the fourth quarter of last year. One person familiar with the buy on WJAR characterized it as a “test,” both for NBC and for Baileys.
Though the subject of hard-liquor advertising on TV can be politically sensitive, most TV stations that have run commercials for distilled spirits have gotten few if any complaints about the ads.
“Almost all the ads for hard liquor that I’ve seen are much classier and in much better taste than most beer ads,” said one TV station manager whose station has run distilled spirits ads.