Miller joins A-B's beer ad exodus from MTV

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MTV's leading beer advertiser, Miller Brewing Co., has become the second major brewer to yank its ads off the cable network to avoid charges that it targets underage drinkers.

Five months after Anheuser-Busch pulled its ads from MTV, Miller said last week it took action because it was unable to adequately control the placement of ads within MTV's schedule.

Miller also followed A-B's lead in shifting some of its buys to MTV sibling VH-1, which targets an older audience. Overall, though, its spending with those networks is expected to decline substantially.

Miller spent $2 million on MTV last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, double the amount spent by A-B on the network.

Since A-B announced its pullout in December, the Federal Trade Commission has started probing buys on MTV by A-B, Miller and Stroh Brewing Co. (AA, April 7). Advertising Age earlier this year reported that during a single week in September last year, both A-B and Miller had spots running on programming where more than half the audience was below the legal drinking age of 21, a violation of the Beer Institute code.

The brewers have said they bought MTV by daypart and ratings and did not place buys on specific programs. They claimed the problems came when MTV allocated the buys to programming reaching younger audiences.

MTV countered that the buys were placed on suitable programming that drew younger than expected audiences.

"We place the advertising based on audience projects, and 99% of the time those are correct," said Carole Robinson, MTV senior VP-corporate communications. "When there are occasional shifts in age, we make adjustments."

Miller's move leaves MTV without a major beer sponsor. Coors Brewing Co., citing concerns about the network's audience, hasn't been advertising on the network, and Stroh Brewery Co. has run relatively few spots.

Miller had earlier tried to limit its MTV spots to adult programming, but VP-Marketing Jack Rooney said that task proved too hard.

"It was difficult for us to control where it aired on MTV," he said.

The FTC, which has been investigating beer and liquor ads on TV, took the unusual step recently of calling in the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. to talk about ad restrictions. Both groups declined to comment on the discussions, saying only that they regularly had discussions with the commission.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt earlier this month said that one alternative to restricting TV advertising of alcoholic beverages was to require stations to also run anti-alcohol spots.

August Busch IV, VP-marketing for A-B, last week disputed the need for counter ads.

"We know that advertising is not the problem," said Mr. Busch. "We have spent $200 million addressing the real issues and we will continue to advertise responsibly."

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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