Who Will Save Us From Lame Beer Commercials?


Why, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, of course. And the Marin Institute. And the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University. With a little help from the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General. Maybe.

The New York Times reports that the anti-alcohol industry is indignant about a Bud Light commercial in which "three men climb onto the roofs of their houses, telling their wives that they [are] going to clean gutters and repair satellite dishes. Instead, the men break out the Bud Light and lawn chairs. One man eventually falls through the roof and into his living room." Anheuser-Busch says the spot, which ran during the Super Bowl and the Olympics (which explains why I didn't see it), is a "spoof." Of what, exactly, isn't clear—maybe stupid beer ads. But the main point is that the rooftop high jinks should not be taken seriously, since that would violate an industry rule against ads that "portray beer drinking before or during activities which, for safety reasons, require a high degree of alertness or coordination."

The FTC, however, does take such matters seriously. At least it did back in 1998, when it scolded Beck's North America for a commercial showing people drinking beer on a sailboat. "Respondent has depicted boating passengers as drinking Beck's beer while engaged in activities that require a high degree of alertness and coordination to avoid falling overboard," the commission said. "This conduct is inconsistent with the Beer Institute's own Advertising and Marketing Code and may also violate federal and state boating safety laws."

But the Beer Institute says complaints about the Bud Light commercial are moot because the ad is not running anymore. "That renders the whole process meaningless, given that many beer ads are designed to air for a short time only," complains CSPI's George Hacker. "It's very convenient. When a company is caught, they can simply withdraw the ad, which then eliminates the possibility of review." I don't know about you, but I like to imagine steam coming out of Hacker's ears as he says this. No doubt he's still fuming about the 2000 "Whassup!" ads, which showed Budweiser-drinking men dangling their tongues in a manner requiring a high degree of alertness or coordination to avoid entrapment in the bottle or entanglement in phone cords.

[Thanks to CEI's Christine Hall-Reis for the tip.]