Spirits lobby mixing with stations

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The hard-liquor industry may be bloodied, but it’s not down for the count.
That was the message last week of Peter Cressy, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, who said his member companies are continuing to seek ways to advertise on network television despite NBC’s recent decision to abruptly drop its plans to air their spots.
“We think it will make a difference to be on [network] broadcast television,” he said at a press briefing last week. “The key component of any industry’s image is formed by TV.”
Facing mounting congressional pressure, NBC opted to reverse course and re-embrace a voluntary broadcast network ban on hard-liquor ads.
For the second year in a row, DISCUS will have a booth on the floor of the National Association of Broadcasters convention, taking place this week in Las Vegas, to press its case and curry favor with stations.
Cable networks reaching 66 percent of the nation’s households and 400 individual broadcasters in 170 markets already air booze ads. In the year 2000, the beer industry spent the bulk of its advertising dollars on TV and radio: $785.1 million, amounting to 86 percent of its ad buy.
In contrast, spirits companies spent $25.1 million that year on TV and radio, only 7 percent of their ad total. Most of their marketing was in magazines.
The spirits industry supports a common standard for all televised alcohol ads, including beer and wine, but such a move has been resisted by those two industries, who fear a clampdown on their ad practices. Distillers also back third-party review of their ads to ensure that they don’t explicitly target underage drinkers or violate any guidelines.
Mr. Cressy said the lack of national advertising of spirits on network TV fuels a perception that there’s something different and dangerous about the products.
He insisted there was only a modest congressional outcry over NBC’s ad plans and expressed surprise that the network backed down. NBC cited Washington pressure as the reason for its decision. Two powerful lawmakers said they urged the network to retreat and were prepared to hold hearings and/or offer legislation if it didn’t.