NEXT ROLE FOR SEAGRAM ;NEW PITCHER

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What we recently posed as a "delicate" issue-whether liquor marketers should advertise on TV and radio-is history as far as House of Seagram is concerned. Liquor, says Seagram, not only deserves a spot on the selling stage of TV and radio (alongside beer and wine), but now has seized it-if only one brand, Crown Royal Canadian whisky, on one TV station in one market, Corpus Christi, Texas. Such is how a new broadcast ad category is born.

We don't oppose this although we have some reservations. Liquor commercials already air in many foreign markets, and in this country on ethnic media. The First Amendment, properly, makes it hard for government to legislate a ban to keep honest commercial speech about these products off the air.

The task for liquor advertisers is to convince the public they can use these powerful media in a responsible way. TV and radio managers, who have the power to control what is advertised and when, have an obligation to the public as well. If liquor TV ads create a new Joe Camel-type advertising controversy, for example, public anger about all alcoholic beverage ads could boil over with unpredictable results.

President Clinton, in effect, has invited the public to watch what happens with liquor ads and TV. A good next step is to arrive at ground rules for when and how liquor will be advertised and make them public. The time to start that self-regulatory process is now and who better to exercise a leadership role in it than Seagram. Will it step up to that task?

Major league Baseball hired its new marketing chief just in time. With pro basketball over, for a few weeks now we can talk home runs, leading pitchers, division standings, the All-Star Game, etc.

Then the camera lenses move to Atlanta for the Olympic games (and more basketball!), which wraps up in time for the first National Football League exhibition games. Then it's wait till fall for the playoffs and World Series to get more media attention.

Of course, some aspects of baseball have already crashed through to get our attention: Marge Schott's callous remarks and the over-reaction by other owners; Albert Belle's basepath mugging; temper tantrums from other over-paid stars, etc.

Welcome to the big leagues, Gregory Murphy.

The former marketing executive of Kraft, General Foods and Pepsi was hired to bring his brand-building expertise to big-time baseball. Although Mr. Murphy prides himself on turning bad situations around quickly, baseball is a a long-term task. No flavor changes, price reductions or flanker brands are available to speed the recovery.

At least the major league owners, not renowned for vision or quick response to problems, have turned to marketing for help. Perhaps the best thing Mr. Murphy brings is no professional background in baseball. Fresh approaches are needed to bring fans back to the ballparks and to reestablish a link with young people, the next generation of fans.

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