Self-Regulation: Coors signs agreement for ad-complaint review

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Coors Brewing Co. has become the first marketer to agree to let an outside party resolve complaints about the appropriateness of its ads and media purchases by formally signing an agreement with the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Coors and CBBB officials said the first complaints could go to the bureaus' "advertising pledge" program as soon as late this summer. Coors has agreed to abide by the program's decision. "It is the right way to enhance our communication and commitment to consumers," said Bart Alexander, Coors director of industry and corporate issues.

While the CBBB works with ad groups to resolve complaints about the accuracy of advertising in the National Advertising Division's Review Division, the pledge program will handle complaints of a different nature, including questions on the age-appropriateness of advertising and where it is running. Coors will continue to use the National Advertising Division to resolve factual issues.

standards the same

Coors said the change won't affect its standards for judging advertising. The brewer will continue to follow the Beer Institute's marketing code for determining where and when ads should run as well as guidelines for the use of celebrities in ads.

Coors, however, will now let complaints about code violations it once handled internally and that can't be amicably resolved go before the CBBB.

Charles Underhill, senior VP of the CBBB, said the Coors complaints it gets would be resolved in a two-step process. A former Federal Trade Commission staffer would initially look at the case and make recommendations. His decision could be appealed to a hearing officer who would be selected from a three-person board made up of advertising experts. Mr. Underhill said the council is looking for people to serve on the board.

Mr. Alexander said Coors, which in the past has unsuccessfully tried to get ad groups and other marketers to create a similar group to resolve complaints the entire ad industry, decided to go it alone because it felt the process was right for its own consumers.

"This is an enhancement of our 1-800 number process. We look at it as the next evolution in our customer program. We went to the Better Business Bureaus because they are about helping companies build better relations with consumers."

Mr. Underhill said that while Coors is the first company to use the Business Bureaus for the purpose, he was hopeful others would follow.

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