Liquor Council Recommends Spirits Marketers Cease Cover Advertising

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WASHINGTON ( -- The liquor industry is toughening some of its ad standards for magazines, recommending that spirits makers should cease running ads on the back and inside covers as of July 1 in millions of copies of five major titles, including Time and Newsweek, unless the publishers can figure out a way to send thousands of school-library editions without those ads.
This week's issue of 'Time' features an ad for Three Olives vodka on the back cover. After July, 'Time' will have to find a way to eliminate that ad from school and library copies, under guidelines imposed by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

Citing the difficulties of producing special editions minus the liquor ads when those ads appear in cover positions, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. told its members to “refrain” from taking the more expensive ads in Time, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report and People.

Responsible practices code
The changes by the trade group are part of its semiannual report on enforcement of the industry’s Code of Responsible Practices for the last half of 2005.

That’s a blow to publishers, who can charge a premium for cover positions. George Janson, managing partner and director of print, Mediaedge:cia, said the new requirements will pose huge challenges to most of the weekly magazines, which wouldn't be happy to give up liquor advertising. “It’s almost like liquor is becoming the new tobacco,” he said.

The liquor council is also telling smaller publications that aren't included in research reports from Mediamark Research’s MRI 12+ and Simmons demographic data that they will need independent third-party survey data to be allowed to accept liquor ads.

70%-adult demographic
While the spirits industry since 2003 has required all members place ads only in media reaching a 70%-adult demographic, there have been some questions about how to assess publications that are not surveyed and also how to ensure the demographic is met.

The problem emerged most strongly in a complaint about ads in the December 2004 edition of XXL magazine for Seagram’s Gin, Courvoisier, Alize, Crown Royal, Christian Brothers Brandy, Hennessy and Bacardi Razz. XXL wasn’t tracked by either MRI or Simmons, but provided spirits companies with adult-audience numbers that were later questioned and that hadn't been independently confirmed.

'ESPN the Magazine'
Another tracking problem cited by trade group’s report concerned a Patron Tequila ad in the Nov. 7, 2005, edition of ESPN the Magazine. Patron Spirits Co. said it bought the ad based on the magazine’s claim that it met the required demographic, but MRI data indicated the magazine’s audience was below the 70% cutoff.

The trade group will now also require spirits advertisers to do semiannual post-audits of their compliance with the 70% standard and beginning in October require unmeasured magazines to provide independent demographic circulation.

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