U.K. TV TO ACCEPT LIQUOR ADS;POLICY REVERSAL AIMED AT ATTRACTING YOUNGER CONSUMERS

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LONDON-Commercials for alcoholic spirits will be allowed on U.K. TV for the first time this month following a long lobbying effort by alcoholic drinks marketers keen to reverse declining whiskey sales by appealing to younger consumers.

Peter Mitchell, strategic affairs director of Guinness and the moving force behind the change, said there are unlikely to be any TV spots for spirits before fall.

Uisdean Maclean, head of advertising clearance for the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Center, which approves U.K. broadcast spots, said that "several" spirits spots have already been submitted and that he is confident they will be approved for broadcast soon.

Spots for whiskey, bourbon and vodka, which run in U.K. cinemas, were kept off TV by a voluntary agreement, now ended, between spirits companies and the U.K.'s commercial TV network, ITV.

Mr. Mitchell, who is also president of the Brussels-based World Federation of Advertisers, said that the U.K. liberalization may strengthen the argument for similar moves in other markets.

"There is no specific plan, but now that a precedent has been created we're obviously going to use it as a bit of a lever," he said.

In the U.S., the world's largest whiskey market, a similar voluntary agreement against spirits ads on TV exists, Mr. Mitchell said. And, similarly, the U.S. and the U.K. have experienced declines in whiskey sales. "Whiskey has been relegated to the drink your father drinks," said a spokesman for Guinness' United Distillers.

Mr. Mitchell said the U.K. development will be noticed across the Atlantic but it is too soon to tell if it will prompt a rethinking of the U.S.' voluntary ban.

Spirits marketers are likely to test TV at first to see how cost-effective it is, Mr. Mitchell said.

"I see people moving money around, pulling it out of print or outdoor [to try TV], but keeping the same level of media spending," he said.

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