The Booze Tube: Spirits Marketers Pour Big Bucks Into TV

Industry Increases Advertising Outlay by 48%

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CHICAGO ( -- While some marketers sound last call for 30-second spots, fast-growing liquor advertisers are sidling up to the bar-and boosting their tabs.
$50-a-bottle Patron tiquila has raised its ad budget by 150% this year.
$50-a-bottle Patron tiquila has raised its ad budget by 150% this year.

Ad spend up 48%
Hoping to continue stealing drinkers away from brewers, spirits advertisers hiked TV spending nearly 48% to $96 million during 2005, despite spending 2% less overall, according to the trade journal Impact. And TNS Media Intelligence data show that the trend continued into the first quarter of 2006.

Alcohol-industry experts said the change in spending patterns -- which include huge rises in cable TV and internet outlays, as well as double-digit decreases in radio and magazines -- shows that the industry is becoming more savvy at marketing to its target audience.

"This is a shift to a much more targeted way of operating," said Brian Sudano, managing director of consultant Beverage Marketing Corp. "They're becoming more savvy."

Case in point: Patron tequila, which this week launches its first TV campaign as part of a major branding effort. The $25 million push represents a 150% increase over 2005, when it bought exclusively print and outdoor ads, and $5 million of the total is going to TV spots from Richards Group, Dallas, that argue the $50-a-bottle tequila is "simply perfect."

Big spenders
Patron's $25 million 2006 budget would have ranked second among distilled-spirits advertisers in 2005, according to Impact. Grey Goose, at $26.9 million, was the sector's biggest spender, followed by Bacardi ($23 million) and Absolut ($18 million). And the $5 million TV budget dwarfs the $3 million committed earlier this year by tequila rival Corazon.

"Television gives us 30 seconds to get our message across," said Matt Carroll, VP-marketing for Patron Spirits Co., who added that the campaign will also feature online and print components.

One spot shows discarded clothes strewn all over a bedroom -- along with Patron's distinctive bottle -- and, as it pans in on a barely covered, attractive sleeping couple, asks whether the scenario involves "the perfect girl" or "the perfect one-night stand"? Then, superimposed on the screen comes the words, "Some perfection is arguable. Some is not."Another -- slated to run on Comedy Central -- features an argument over whether "Caddyshack" or "Animal House" is the perfect comedy. Inherent in all of this, of course, is a role reversal.

Beer marketers, long derided for unoriginal ads with "Animal House" humor and sex references, are doing more with new media and events, while a luxury-spirits brand like Patron is running more 30-second spots filled with, um, nevermind.

Avoiding beer's pitfalls
Mr. Carroll sees the parallel, but thinks Patron and other distillers can avoid beer's pitfalls with better execution. "At Super Bowl time, they're spending millions and running the same old stuff," he said. "We're not interested in doing that."

Yet Patron's ad could run afoul of the marketing code of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (Discus), which says "advertising and marketing materials should not contain or depict: graphic or gratuitous nudity; overt sexual activity; promiscuity; or sexually lewd or indecent images or language." A Discus spokesman said the code review board would only review the ad if a complaint about it was filed. Until then, he told a reporter, "I'll let you play ad-review board."
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