SEAGRAM CHAIRMAN DEFENDS LIQUOR TV ADS;FCC SEEKING INFORMATION ON WHEN THE SPOTS HAVE BEEN AIRED

By Published on .

In the first public comments from Seagram Co.'s executive suite since the marketer began airing hard-liquor ads on TV, Chairman Edgar M. Bronfman said last week the company doesn't want its commercials to reach and influence youngsters.

FCC MAILS LETTERS

His comments came as the Federal Communications Commission prepared to mail letters today to four TV stations that have run Seagram ads. FCC Chief of Staff Blair Levin is requesting times and dates that the stations ran the ads, as well as copies of the commercials.

"It's the first step in the FCC's fact-finding on the issue," said an FCC insider.

Mr. Bronfman, speaking to Advertising Age last week before the FCC action was learned, said the marketer recognizes its responsibility to avoid targeting children.

"Yes, that is a concern and our plan is to make sure we show the ads later in the evening and in appropriate programming," he said.

He emphasized his belief that it is legitimate to advertise liquor on TV as long as it is done "responsibly and tastefully."

BREAKING THE BAN

Seagram Americas has stirred up controversy in recent months by breaking the distilled-spirits industry's self-imposed ban on TV and radio advertising.

With both Seagram and the FCC claiming to want to protect children, the debate will come down to what hours are appropriate to air liquor ads.

For example, on Oct. 19 at 8:58 p.m., WMUR-TV-an ABC affiliate in New Hampshire that serves Boston-aired a spot for Seagram's Crown Royal Canadian. On Sept. 30, a commercial for Seagram's Chivas Regal ran on WMUR at 9:30 p.m. The station is among those getting the FCC letter; others include WNDS-TV, Derry, N.H., and KRIS-TV, Corpus Christi, Texas.

On WMUR, the Chivas spot ran during an "NFL Monday Night Football" game; the Crown Royal commercial aired after "Second Noah" and before "Coach."

The audience for all three of those programs has a significant viewership under 21 years old.

SEEKING CONSENSUS

An executive close to the FCC said one solution the agency would likely accept is to have Seagram and perhaps the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. meet with Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other interest groups to reach a consensus about when to air hard-liquor ads. In a letter to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, MADD suggested limiting all alcohol advertising on TV to after 10 p.m.

However, even after 10 p.m. there can be a significant number of young people still watching TV. During the week of Oct. 7, 50% of the total TV audience between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. was under 21, according to Nielsen Media Research.

On Oct. 16, the National Council on Alcoholism wrote Mr. Hundt urging the FCC to hold public hearings on "how current advertising of all alcoholic beverages on television affects young people."

The council, in conjunction with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, followed with two more letters Oct. 24 to Mr. Hundt and to The Association of National Advertisers.

SEEKING HEARINGS

The letter to Mr. Hundt urged the FCC to initiate "widely publicized" hearings on the effects of liquor advertising on children. The letter to ANA called on the group to support the continuation of the voluntary ban.

As the debate continues, Seagram breaks new barriers weekly. Last week, a local cable system in the New Orleans area started inserting spots for Crown Royal on various cable networks.

Contributing: Ira Teinowitz, Bill McDowell

In this article:
Most Popular