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Anheuser-busch should know better. When the idea that led to "Frank & Louie's Greatest Hits," the new music-CD gig for Budweiser's animated spokesreptiles Frank and Louie, came up for approval, someone high up should have remembered there's a time to "know when to say when." That time had arrived; this licensing idea should have been shown the door.

About a year ago, a survey of 800 children by ad agency Campbell Mithun Esty showed that the Bud commercials' frogs and tough-talking lizards were No. 1 in popularity-out of 240 other brand spots, which included ads for Barbie and McDonald's. That's not reason enough to advocate-as some have-ending the amphibian/reptilian campaign. The ad characters' increasingly sophisticated banter probably is over the heads of young kids; surely it's the images only that are being noted, and nothing more.

It's another thing when A-B allows the characters, and the ads, to be a signature part of a compilation CD of '60s, '70s and '80s pop music and distributes the CD via mainstream record outlets, plus such large-scale retailers as Kmart and Wal-Mart. That music is popular with youth well under legal drinking age. Imagine the teens, or pre-teens, getting Bud commercials mixed in with the music cuts. Now imagine beer ad critics and government regulators using this to fuel lawmaker interest in enacting more alcoholic-beverage marketing controls.

A-B executives should remember Bud Light's 1980s spokesdog, Spuds MacKenzie. Spuds gained wide popularity and A-B added licensees-not only T-shirts but plush toys, no less. Soon even the U.S. Surgeon General called for a stop to the antics. Eventually, A-B cut back on Spuds materials out of concern about appealing to children. Before long, the campaign was a thing of the past-perhaps needlessly.

Appearing in the right time slots and directed at the appropriate audience, the Bud critters are fine; we'd actually hate to see them go. Advertising inventions often develop a pop following outside their intended markets. But trying to exploit that mass-market appeal, as A-B seems to be doing, is off-target when a large chunk of the new audience is off-limits as customers for their product. This CD should be stopped, before the lizards and frogs feel a real gig-through their backs.

Uncle Sam's $

The marketing budgets available for upcoming U.S. government campaigns-$150 million for anti-drug advertising and perhaps $300 million to promote participation in the year 2000 census-are so substantial, and so relevant to minority markets, that it's no surprise African-American members of the U.S. House are intently examining the media plans.

Many minority media are convinced too many private-sector advertisers give them short shrift out of racism or ignorance of their value in marketing programs. With tax dollars involved, these federal programs are rightly open to inspection by all members of Congress. And it makes sense that minority media-and agencies-should have a significant role to play in the advertising that results.

These budgets, however, are not "pork," to be spread around among constituent groups like dollars for public works projects. They have specific tasks to accomplish, and good stewardship of those dollars means lawmakers need to balance political "fairness" in spreading the funds among various agencies and media with the need to get maxiumum efficiency for the taxpayers' ad dollar. That's not an impossible task, as long as Congress and the government agencies responsible for the campaigns are committed to getting the best the ad and media

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