But Smirnoff Spots Must Use Actors Older Than 29

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In an unprecedented move, General Electric's NBC will accept ads for distilled spirits on this week's Saturday Night Live.

The initial ad will be a spot for Guinness-UDV North America's Guinness-Bass Import Co. and its Smirnoff vodka, which carries a social responsibility message about using a designated driver, an NBC spokeswoman said.

The marketer has been edging toward prime-time spots with its "malternative" drink Smirnoff Ice. Some cable marketers initially were wary of acceptings ads for the hot product because its label so closely resembled the base brand.

Guinness UDV,

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which is owned by the world's largest spirits company, approached NBC about the effort and prompted the network to revise its advertising guidelines.

"They came to us and said they were willing to work with us, and we developed these guidelines," an NBC spokeswoman said.

The rules
Under the new guideleines, the products can be promoted from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. and during late night, and actors in the spots must be older than 29.

NBC also requires advertisers to air a social responsibility message, such as using a designated driver or drinking responsibly, along with a brief brand message such as "Brought to you by" for at least the first four months. Later ads can drop the social responsibility message, but 20% of that second phase must include those messages.

Other guidelines include: no ads for beverages where alcohol content exceeds 50%; no on-camera drinking; and no active professional athletes used as endorsers.

Hangover-helper ads not accepted
NBC said ads for products that treat hangover remedies will not be accepted, calling into question the fate of a new campaign for Alka-Seltzer Morning Relief.

The NBC spokewoman said she would check into that campaign.

"It's a great announcement," said Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Distilled Industry Council of the U.S. "It's about time. There is no law that precludes the advertising, and over 400 stations have taken spirits ads and hundreds more interested. It recognized that the advertising is tasteful and responsible."

Mr. Coleman also said the economy most likely played a role.

"Certainly as advertising tanked, and more and more stations took the advertising, it was only a matter of time."

Ads for distilled spirits have run on cable and local stations since 1996 after Seagram Spirits & Wine Group broke a self-imposed ban.

Guiness-UDV did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

Staff writer Ira Teinowitz contributed to this report.

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