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Making advertising work for the industry.

FOR MANY YEARS, U.S. corporate giants like Archer Daniels Midland and General Electric have funneled a lot of advertising dollars into ads that run among the Sunday morning news analysis programs (i.e. Meet the Press, the McLaughlin Group, This Week with David Brinkley).

The ads are elaborate, big-budget efforts, that illustrate the threads these companies add to the tapestry of American capitalism. These corporate sponsors know that legislators and media barons alike watch these opinion-forming programs, and they want to add their message to the information stream.

Lately, Anheuser-Busch has joined the line-up of frequent advertisers on these programs, with the anti-abuse "Family Talk on Drinking" message and the environmental responsibility "Pledge and a Promise" spots.

These ads, which are among the best produced by any brewer, provide powerful images to flesh out the basic positions of the industry, and communicate them to an important audience. This kind of positive imagery has been particularly valuable in recent weeks, as the specter of ad-warning legislation is once again lurking in the halls of Congress.

Although it seems unlikely that any ad-warning measure will pass this year, it might be timely to reflect on the image the industry projects through the powerful medium of television.

In a May 12th editorial, the Wall Street Journal came out against sin taxes on beer. Interestingly, the piece also delivered a few amusing (but scathing) asides on the nature of beer advertising.

Discounting the image of beer as a "drink of the working class," the editorial noted that, "in all our years of consuming beer commercials, we can't recall ever seeing a recognizable member of the 'working class,' or anyone doing any sort of work, except maybe the bartender and a few delirious cowboys."

The piece reported Clinton's presumed rejection of a beer tax, but said, "From the looks of things in beer commercials today, the President would essentially be making the world safe for beach parties and the Silver Bullet Girl...Let's be honest, this is tax relief for the 'playing' classes."

The editorial, written in a light-hearted vein, went on the toss barbs at a few other well-known beer ads, including those from Anheuser-Busch and Heineken.

The piece was heartening in its categorical rejection of sin taxes, but intriguing in the perspective it provides on the industry's advertising efforts.

In some respects, this Journal bombast is unfair--almost any industry's ads could be lampooned as effectively. There is something inherently ridiculous about most advertising, and most people don't take them too seriously. But if the WSJ perceived an imbalanced portrayal of beer drinkers, then other Americans (including legislators) have as well.

This is not to say that all beer ads should be public-service messages or ponderous recitations of the brewing process, but a balance must be struck.

Many ads produced by the beer industry in recent years succeed in doing this. Brewers have been working to create images of a broader demographic in recent ads, and this is a welcome trend, but the beach party imagery is what sticks in the mind.

Beer is fun, and that is a key selling point; but in these times, it is important that other messages go out as well.
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Title Annotation:brewing industry
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jul 12, 1993
Words:533
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