PETE'S BREWING UPS MARKETING FOR CRUCIAL PERIOD: BLACK ROCKET'S RADIO CAMPAIGN BACKS POPULAR SUMMER BREW

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Pete's Brewing Co. is hoping a summer marketing campaign will help reverse a first-quarter loss.

The effort started over Memorial Day weekend, with a series of humorous radio spots in major markets supporting Pete's Wicked Summer Brew.

Pete's Summer Brew was the most popular craft beer of its type in 1996, and the company wants to repeat that success.

The three 60-second spots from Black Rocket, San Francisco, are designed to appeal to beer drinkers ages 21 to 29. In the spots, Summer Brew helps turn mundane conversations between drinkers into quirky chats.

BOOSTING SPENDING

Pete's also is putting more money behind its marketing. During the first three months of 1997 it spent $7.6 million, up 33.4% from the year-earlier period.

Pete's sold 5.9 million cases in 1996, up 22.9% from '95, making it the No. 2 craft brewer, said Impact.

The stakes right now are high; most industry observers believe there are too many craft brews on the market and that a shakeout is inevitable. Pete's views marketing as a means to make it a survivor.

But Pete's has been having problems of its own. Last year, it endured shrinking profit margins and falling net income. In the three months ended March 31, Pete's reported a $2.8 million net loss.

Jeff Atkins, chief financial officer and acting chief operating officer, said the brewer will return to profitability by the third quarter.

3 AGENCIES IN 3 YEARS

On top of that, Pete's has gone through three agencies in as many years. The brewer worked with Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, in 1995, but it was bumped when the shop started working for Anheuser-Busch. Pete's approached Black Rocket in June 1996, but the agency wasn't taking on new accounts, so it signed on Gotham, New York.

Gotham created a series of radio spots featuring brewery founder Pete Slosberg hunting for ingredients, but the company wasn't fond of them. "I don't think it did as effective a job as we would have wanted," Mr. Atkins said.

That dissatisfaction, coupled with a desire to work with a West Coast agency, drove Pete's back to Black Rocket. The brewer named the agency in March.

The beer also will be supported by a sweepstakes handled by Highway One, San

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