NO SAFE-DRINKING AD FOR BUD'S LIZARD: FTC LIQUOR PROBE CREATES CAUTIOUS ENVIRONMENT

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Anheuser-Busch has apparently pulled the plug on a responsible-drinking ad that would have starred Budweiser's Louie the Lizard, a character critics have charged appeals to minors.

The decision not to proceed with the ad comes as the Federal Trade Commission expands its wide-ranging investigation into alcoholic beverage advertising.

Last week, the FTC charged two marketers violated federal laws and asked eight companies, including A-B, for proof of compliance with industry self-regulation guidelines.

LIZARDS SHOULDN'T DRIVE

The proposed A-B ad, according to those familiar with it, used already shot footage of the lizards and joked that lizards shouldn't be designated drivers. The lizard ads are handled by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.

A-B, however, denied ever considering such an ad.

"We have never intended, nor do we plan, to use the Budweiser lizards in any ads communicating our responsible-consumption messages," the brewer said in a statement to Advertising Age attributed to Bob Lachky, VP-brand management.

A-B has used a controversial character in a responsible-drinking forum before; in 1987, it used Spuds MacKenzie -- the English bull terrier billed as a "party animal" and criticized for appealing to children -- in a moderation spot.

The alcoholic beverage industry is sensitive to the threat of advertising regulation, particularly as controversy over tobacco marketing comes to a boil in Washington and debate continues over liquor advertising on TV.

Increased scrutiny came last week as the FTC chastised beer importer Beck's North America, settled charges with Allied Domecq Spirits & Wines see For the Record on Page 17) and ordered eight alcohol marketers to report on how they evaluate ads and media.

HOW ADS ARE EVALUATED

The eight companies were asked to detail how in the last two years they evaluated whether ads are "intended to appeal primarily" to drinkers; and if the media used appealed to drinkers of legal age. They also were directed to say what directives they give their agencies and what demographics they seek not only for advertising but for product placement.

The FTC also specifically asked about placements and ads on college campuses and at beaches and resorts during spring break.

For four periods of several days each last year and this year, the companies were asked to provide media schedules and demographics for all ads with demographics broken down to three age categories: under 21, 21 to 25 and over 25.

"We are in full compliance with the provisions of the voluntary Brewing Industry Ad Code and we are pleased to have the opportunity to demonstrate the thoroughness of our compliance," said Stephen Lambright, A-B VP-group executive.

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