Coors slammed for targeting kids

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Adolph Coors Co. is under fire from a youth anti-alcohol group for its involvement in a Halloween movie the group said directly targets teens.

Just a month after alcohol marketers agreed to advertise only in media that reached an audience consisting of at least 70% adults, The Marin Institute has accused Coors of defying the alcohol industry's guidelines by promoting its tie-in with Miramax's "Scary Movie 3." What's scary to Marin executives about the film, produced by Miramax sub-label Destination Films, is its PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. The PG-13 rating states, "some material may be inappropriate for children under 13."

Coors is not only advertising around "Scary Movie 3," but has its Coors twins appearing in the film itself. The company claims it thought the film would be accessible only to older viewers: "It was a surprise to us that PG-13 rating came out," said a Coors spokeswoman. She added that the brewer and Miramax expected the film to receive an R rating as the first two "Scary Movie" properties had received. "We don't want to be targeting minors," she said.

Coors spent an estimated $3 million to $8 million, including TV ads using scenes from the film and in-store displays to promote the role its twins had in the movie. In its first week, the film grossed $49 million. The Coors' busty and ubiquitous spokes-twins' cameo in a party scene in the horror-parody film is part of a three-year, 15-film product-placement deal with the Disney-owned studio.

"Once a film is rated, it is technically done," said Lori Sale, exec VP-worldwide promotions, Miramax. "A brand doesn't retain the rights to pull that placement out because they're not happy with the rating a film subsequently gets."

too late

"If Coors wanted to be responsible, they would have pulled the promotional ads when they learned it was rated PG-13," said Laurie Lieber, a media advocate for the Marin Institute. Coors began promoting the film a month before it opened with ads stating the film had not yet been rated. By the time the film had received its rating, TV ads and in-store displays promoting the film had already gone into distribution.

Ms. Sale defended Coors, which sent the studio to sensitivity training and "asked all the right questions," about the audience compositions for the first two films, which were both more than 70% over 21 years old.

set to end

The Coors spokeswoman said the company discontinued the TV spots after Marin complained. "We don't want misperceptions that we are looking to appeal to minors, so we discontinued the ads," she said. But Ms. Sale said the Coors planned media schedule was set to end when the film opened.

"What I see is an objectionable ad that ran its course, but when [Coors] got into trouble, they admit the ad was inappropriate and they claim they're not going to use it anymore, and that self-regulation is working," Ms. Lieber said.

Mary Engle, associate director of advertising practices for the Federal Trade Commission, sees this case as a "perfect thing" to bring before the Advertising Pledge Program of the Better Business Bureau for resolution. Coors is the only national beer marketer to use this third-party review program. Three complaints have been reviewed by the program, which found one campaign in violation of Coors' pledge standards.

The FTC recommends that every company use such a neutral party to track and publicize compliance since the government only steps in when asked to by Congress or when it observes red flags. "You look more for a pattern of practice" of consistently targeting underage drinking, Ms. Engle said. "The problem with looking at each individual show is that you can't show in advance what the individual audience will be."

"There is enough to raise a question of pattern," said a Marin spokesman. "The fact that Coors is now already promoting the fact that they're in `Scary Movie 4' indicates the intent to continue co-promoting a highly recognized youth brand."

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