Minorities Object to Targeted Alcohol Ads

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Minorities Object to Targeted Alcohol Ads

Marketing to minorities has long been among the most sensitive issues confronting alcoholic beverage makers. A decade ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) published two highly critical reports on the subject. footnote 1footnote 2

Crazy Horse “is only the latest in a string of offensive malt liquor campaigns,” Patricia Taylor, former director of CSPI's alcohol policies project, testified at a congressional hearing. “We condemn Crazy Horse's manufacturer for the way in which the company has appropriated a spiritual and cultural figure to promote a product responsible for such much devastation to Native Americans.” footnote 3

Crazy Horse remains on the market despite persistent efforts by Native American groups and their supporters to force Hornell Brewing Co. to halt its production. “To the people who put this out, it's nothing but a way to make money,” said Big Crow, a descendant of Crazy Horse. “For them, everything is there to make money off of. But there are many things that we honor and cherish, and we are going to defend them.” footnote 4

CSPI and other critics of malt liquor marketing object in particular to the fact that it is often sold in 40-ounce cans. “Singles of that size enhance the user's ability to become intoxicated,” says George A. Hacker, current director of the group's alcohol policies project. (Malt liquors typically contain as much as 20 percent more alcohol than regular beers.)

Jeff Becker, the Beer Institute's vice president for alcohol issues, acknowledges that malt liquor advertising often is placed in African American and Hispanic communities. But he rejects claims that the ads promote alcohol abuse, noting that studies show lower rates of alcohol consumption among blacks and Hispanics than among whites. And he says it is insulting to intimate that members of minority groups are less able to assess the content of alcohol advertising than other people.

Malt liquor marketing practices remain an area of concern for CSPI, says Hacker. “But it hasn't been as high-level an issue in the last couple of years,” he says, “because other things have arisen that seem more urgent right now.” He cites liquor advertising on television and radio and concerns about alcohol's impact on health as prime examples.

Though no clear pattern has yet emerged, there are indications that liquor companies may find radio and TV stations in minority areas especially receptive to their advertising. Broadcasting and alcohol industry observers note that the only two national cable TV networks to accept liquor commercials to date are Black Entertainment Television, oriented toward African Americans, and Telemundo, a Spanish-language service that has run spots for Presidente Brandy. And it may be more than coincidence that the first liquor ads to run on U.S. television appeared on a station in Corpus Christi, a southern Texas city with a large Hispanic population.

As the CSPI reported in its report on marketing to Hispanics, “Today, the Hispanic community is paying the price for the marketing savvy of the alcohol and tobacco companies with increased levels of drinking and smoking.”

[1] “Marketing Booze to Blacks” (1987) and “Marketing Disease to Hispanics” (1989).

[2] Crazy Horse is the Sioux chief whose forces defeated Col. George A. Custer at the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn in Montana. Custer and all the members of his regiment died in the battle.

[3] Testimony before House Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families, May 19, 1992.

[4] Quoted by Michael A. Fletcher, “Crazy Horse Again Sounds Battle Cry,” The Washington Post, Feb. 18, 1997, p. A3.
Document Citation
Worsnop, R. L. (1997, March 14). Alcohol advertising. CQ Researcher, 7, 217-240. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/

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