LABATT VOTE LETS CANADA ANVASS ITS TASTEBUDS

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The voters have spoken-at least the beer-drinking voters-and the winner is.... A lager named Labatt Copper, in a promotion that resulted in "Canada's first democratically elected beer."

Labatt Breweries staged "Copper Vote '95" over a 17-day period in bars, restaurants and liquor stores across Canada. The promotion pitted two beers, identified only as Labatt X and Labatt Y, and asked consumers to vote for the one that tasted better.

One candidate was a lager and the other a heavier-tasting ale. Labatt simply described the brews as "a unique new dark beer brewed to be both flavorful and refreshing." Labatt Copper is billed as a new style of beer combining European and North American malts.

Drinkers took the election theme to heart. Lager Labatt X won with 57% of the almost 117,000 ballots cast. About 70% of the secret votes were cast through election-style ballot boxes. The rest were called in to a toll-free hot line.

Voters were able to sample the candidates in those provinces where it was allowed. Elsewhere, they could buy six-packs of X or Y. The balloting was held in four provinces in western, central and Atlantic Canada to see how the beers fared with different regional tastes.

"Clearly, there was a recognized difference between the two products," Labatt Public Relations Director Paul Smith said. "I think we avoided the response that this election was just some marketing hocus-pocus."

Toronto agency Lowe SMS provided advertising for the election. Just as in real-life politics, opposing camps ran ads supporting their candidates, with separate spots glowingly endorsing each label. Ten other commercials mirrored TV news updates.

The goal was to make the election "as real as possible," said agency VP Randy VanDerStarren, though, "It was in a way a spoof on an election."

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