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Critics blast new Colt 45 campaign.

In a new television commercial that began airing nationally last week, a message of hope and reformation is delivered in hip, stream of consciousness narration over bleak, grainy shots of an inner-city neighborhood. But what may look like an ad for Big Brothers or the United Negro College Fund is drawing criticism from some corners in a pitched debate over the ethics of aiming high-octane malt liquor advertising at young, inner-city blacks.

The youthful black actors sip from bottles of Colt 45 malt liquor in the new spot from G. Heilman Brewing Co., a sharp departure from the company's former campaign. The previous ads, used since the mid-80s, featured the middle-aged leading man, Billy Dee Williams, beautiful women, and the tag line "Colt 45. It works everytime."

Deutsch/Dworin, the New York agency that created the ads, says they are are meant to portray the values and concerns of inner-city consumers. But critics call them cynical, just a more subtle version of Williams' glitzy spots linking the drink with romantic and financial prowess.

"It's the same old success tie-in, portraying drinkers as those who are successful," said George Hacker, director of the alcohol policies project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "But here it's so cynical because drinking those high-alcohol products frequently leads to the exact opposite result."

The issue is all the more heated because two years ago, Heilemann was planning to introduce PowerMaster, an especially potent malt aimed directly at urban blacks, but backed off after wide-spread outcry. The brewer took more heat for its part in producing and distributing St. Ides, a malt brand that features rap artists like Ice Cube in its ads. After that, Heilmann came under still more fire for brewing the high-power Crazy Horse malt liquor.

Many brewing industry executives see nothing wrong with the focus of the advertisements. Targeting low-income African-Americans for malt liquor is no different than selling the Mercedes-Benz line to white, affluent suburbanites, they say.
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Title Annotation:G. Heileman Brewing Company Inc.'s malt liquor advertising
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Date:Mar 8, 1993
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