A-B CAMPAIGN CHASTISES BOSTON BEER MARKETING; RADIO, PRINT ADS URGE SAM ADAMS BREWER TO CLARIFY WHERE PRODUCT IS PRODUCED

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Anheuser-Busch has launched a biting attack on Boston Beer Co., with a print and radio campaign that accuses the craft brewer of misleading consumers about where Samuel Adams and other products are produced.

Radio spots from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, broke in 14 markets on Oct. 23, mostly on classic and alternative rock stations. The Halloween-theme spots are slated to run through this week.

Creative features a sound-alike of Boston Beer founder-spokes-man Jim Koch haunted by the ghost of Sam Adams, who admonishes Mr. Koch for not telling consumers Samuel Adams beer is mass-produced by other large breweries. "Mr. Koch" vows to make amends.

GOING AFTER `DECEPTION'

No specific A-B products are touted in the radio spots. Rather, the ads are aimed directly at shattering what A-B VP-Corporate Communications Steve LeResche calls the "deception" of Boston Beer positioning itself as a small, homey brewery.

"We feel it's important to tell the truth," Mr. LeResche said. "We're tired of people pretending to be something that they're not. It reflects badly on all of us."

Although it positions itself as a small, craft beer, Samuel Adams is produced under contract by several regional breweries.

A print ad that broke in The Boston Globe Oct. 14 and then ran in other area newspapers follows a similar tack. The ad displays a bottle of Samuel Adams next to a bottle of Michelob and asks, "Which beer is brewed and bottled in New England?"

Copy goes on to point out that Samuel Adams is brewed under contract at the same breweries that produce sub-premium brands like Schlitz and Schaeffer.

The ad points out that Michelob is brewed at an A-B facility in Merrimack, N.H. Mr. LeResche said the company hasn't decided whether to expand the campaign nationally.

Boston Beer Co. executives said they are aware of the ads, but wouldn't comment on them or whether there are plans to counterattack. Boston Beer spent $11.4 million on advertising in 1995, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

LATEST ROUND IN FEUD

The campaign is the latest round of a feud between the two brewers that ignited in January when A-B and 30 microbrew companies filed a petition with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms to require Boston Beer and other brewers to disclose where their beer is produced.

Net sales for Boston Beer increased 16% in the third quarter, according to company figures. Through September, sales grew 32% to $143.3 million.

Despite the sales growth, the company's stock dropped last week as investors reacted to lower-than-expected October/November orders for Samuel Adams. Some interpreted the modest 5.5% increase as a sign the craft brew craze is cooling.

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