The marketer last year broke a half-century industry ban on TV and radio advertising for distilled spirits. Subsequently, the trade group representing the liquor industry reversed the ban, sanctioning TV and radio advertising for any distilled spirits company.
The boldness of Seagram and Exec VP-Marketing Arthur Shapiro to expand its media plan has changed the landscape of alcohol marketing. The Seagram campaign is important not just because it might help sell more product in markets where the ads appear, but because it's led to a reexamination of all alcohol broadcast advertising.
Mr. Shapiro's goal: "I would hope the day would come when we have liquor advertising on TV and radio of all kinds, with no distinction between beer and hard-liquor advertising, and when everyone will realize it is done responsibly across the board."
Mr. Shapiro, 51, is not pleased with the reaction of the beer industry to the Seagram move. The beer industry has not rushed to defend liquor advertising on TV and radio. Besides competitive reasons for not doing so, beer marketers are facing tough government scrutiny themselves.
He's also unhappy with the reaction to Seagram's move. Much of the criticism by President Clinton and others has focused on the possibility that liquor ads target an audience under the legal drinking age. Seagram does not target underage dirnkers, Mr. Shapiro says.
"We have never, ever, acted irresponsibly with our advertising," he says. "I kill far more ads than I approve."