GrandMet eyes TV for liquor ads

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Grand Metropolitan's Paddington Corp. is planning to run liquor ads on TV, a controversial move that follows Seagram Americas in breaking a voluntary 48-year-old industry ban on radio and TV ads.

Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, recently sent questionnaires to a number of TV stations and local cable systems on behalf of Paddington's Baileys Original Irish Cream, asking if they would broadcast ads for the brand later this year.

The queries are the first hard evidence that another distiller is joining Seagram in breaking the rules established by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.

Seagram first broke the ban this summer and is currently running spots in several major markets for Crown Royal and Chivas Regal whiskey (AA, Sept. 23, et seq.). The company has drawn fire from critics including President Clinton, Rep. Joseph Kennedy Jr. (D., Mass.) and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt. Both Seagram and Paddington are council members.


Paddington, a division of GrandMet USA, had hoped it would meet little resistance from TV stations since Baileys contains 17% alcohol, much lower than the 40% alcohol content in Crown Royal or Chivas Regal.

Wine, regularly advertised on TV, can contain as much as 15% alcohol, though it is not a distilled product and its alcohol levels are a result of natural grape fermentation. For distilled beverages, anything more than 7% alcohol comes under the council ban.

But most of the TV stations contacted by Lowe have said they weren't interested in accepting the Baileys spots. One station executive, however, said he thinks a local cable operator or regional cable service may take the campaign.

Neither Paddington nor Lowe would comment.

Like Seagram, GrandMet is a major player in liquor marketing. In addition to Paddington, whose portfolio also includes such brands as J&B, GrandMet owns Carillon Importers (Stolichnaya) and Heublein (Smirnoff).

As both Seagram and Paddington look for TV stations to air their liquor spots, at least one state TV association has polled its members to see if they will take the commercials.

The Texas Association of Broadcasters on Sept. 20 sent a fax questionnaire to its 145 TV station members about the subject.


"We received 29 reponses, which is about average when we do any kind of survey," said Ann Arnold, association president. Of those who responded, 20 stations said they wouldn't take liquor advertising, five said they would and four were classified as maybes.

One station said it would accept the ads after 8 p.m. Another said it would allow them in all dayparts, except Saturday morning and during kids programming. Yet a third responded that it would air liquor spots after 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and during sports.

A San Antonio station that would allow the ads said it has been running spots for liquor stores for more than a year, and that the only complaint it received was from a local newspaper.

Yet another TV station executive said he had heard that two New York regional cable networks, SportsChannel and Madison Square Garden Network, had accepted ads for Chivas Regal; executives at both networks denied that.


As the issue of liquor advertising on TV continues to heat up, Rep. Kennedy, an avowed opponent of TV alcohol advertising, last week joined with seven other congressmen in urging Mr. Hundt to hold a public hearing on the subject.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving also sent a letter to both President Clinton and Mr. Hundt, asking for limiting alcoholic beverage advertising on TV to after 10 p.m.

Mr. Hundt responded to MADD's letter Friday, saying: "We should be very concerned about this troubling new development in the use of the public's airwaves," and that the FCC was deciding how it would proceed.

A number of distillers have said they will abide by the ban as long as the distilled spirits council keeps it in place.

The council's executive committee is meeting next month, "but don't expect them to come anywhere near the issue," said one executive at a distiller. "Most of the distillers have either beer or wine, and they don't want to upset the status quo and risk a ban of beer and wine ads."

Contributing: Ira Teinowitz

Copyright October 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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