Hard Liquor Biz Pushes for TV Ads

"Ad revenues are down," says Coleman. "The economy is hurting, the dot-coms that were spending like drunken sailors have gone away, and last year was a big, big political year."

Indeed, many analysts expect ad revenues at local television stations to fall in 2001. For his part, Hacker acknowledges the pressure the television business is facing, saying the odds of liquor ads proliferating on television are "significant, if the broadcast industry hits on hard times."

Reaching a Larger Audience

But if distillers are saying their ad money can help the broadcast business, they undoubtedly believe television exposure will help the drink business and be a more economically efficient way of reaching a big audience, as well.

According to Advertising Age, makers of distilled liquor, unable to rely on the reach of television, spent nearly twice as much of their revenues on all forms of advertising as beer makers did in 2000.

And while hard liquor sales have increased in recent years, the industry's rising tide has come only after a couple decades of decline — and could dry up if the economy declines.

But beer companies will continue to get prominent television exposure come good times or bad. And as long as brewers do, the liquor industry will aspire to gain parity with the breweries, to the chagrin of those who would like to see liquor ads kept off the air.

Says Hacker: "Why would we want to make drinking vodka appear as cool and associated with successful outcomes as beer already is?"

Until now, that's been the viewpoint of the television industry, too. But the liquor industry hopes broadcast executives are closer to adopting the perspective put forward by Coleman: "Alcohol is alcohol is alcohol."

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