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The hard truth.

The Century Council recently commissioned a study on American attitudes about alcoholic beverages and the companies that sell them. Although the study had not been released at press-time, preliminary reports indicate the Council has uncovered some hard truths.

One truth is that Americans don't have a favorable impression of brewers. Although Americans may trust brewers to produce quality beer, they do not trust them to market it responsibly.

In the study, an alarming percentage of respondents voiced distrust of alcoholic beverage producers, and terms that came up included, "uncaring" and "not honest and ethical."

Beyond that, 73 percent of those polled agreed to some extent that alcohol advertising is a "major contributor" to underage drinking.

This information should not come as a shock to those in the alcoholic beverage trade. This is a country where large corporations of any stripe are generally mistrusted, and where previous polls have shown broad support for restrictions on alcoholic beverage advertising. It is also the country in which, just over 70 years ago, the legislature voted for a complete ban on the production and sale of alcoholic beverages.

Still, the report reveals the work yet to be done. Legislation designed to muzzle brewers is in the offing, and there will be little to restrain legislators if their constituents are so thoroughly disenchanted.

In light of this, Heileman's recent midadventure with Powermaster looks doubly ill-advised. Such careless marketing efforts can exacerbate an already difficult situation.

Because of the tremendous volume of advertising placed in the mass media by beer marketers, these campaigns are extremely visible to consumers. That, after all, is the intent. However, this same visibility ensures that the beer industry will always be a lightning rod among alcoholic beverage producers.

And, with attention now being focused on the alcoholic beverage industry as never before, even the slightest misstep can have grave consequences for all involved.

The Beer Institute and the Century Council are both working to address this concern, by promulgating advertising codes of ethics. Adherence to these codes has never been more necessary.

If Americans come to believe that brewers are cynically using advertising to develop brand loyalty in impressionable youths, an ad ban becomes a virtual certainty

The problem of underage drinking is a serious concern to Americans. Although it may be impossible for brewers and wholesalers to control the dispensing of their products, they can provide support and training so that retailers can do the job effectively.

It also behooves brewers to examine each of their marketing campaigns, and carefully evaluate the target audience.

There is a fine line between appealing to those above 21, and those below, but brewers must tred it. These days, it will be easy to detect when that line has been crossed--the firestorm of flak from the anti-alcohol groups will be a sure indication.

That is not to say the industry must be content to tread lightly around the issue. The Century report did contain one encouraging note--some respondents did believe the industry is headed in the right direction, and, as evidence, most cited industry anti-drunk-driving ads.

The combination of such thoughtful public service messages with ethical advertising will go a long way towards turining public attitudes around.
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Title Annotation:effect of public attitudes towards the brewing industry
Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Article Type:editorial
Date:Sep 9, 1991
Previous Article:Eliminating waste - without damaging service.
Next Article:Wine lead limit set.

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