Is the Spirits Sector Acting Too Soberly?

By Snowdon, Ros | Marketing, January 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

Is the Spirits Sector Acting Too Soberly?


Snowdon, Ros, Marketing


When the 40-year television ban on spirits advertising was scrapped last summer, dire warnings followed.

One belief was that the influx of spirit brands onto television could lead to a backlash in which all alcohol advertising might be banned from the box.

But a month after the Christmas peak season, the ads have left consumers wondering what all the fuss was about.

Marketing's Adwatch reveals that not one single spirits ad has been memorable enough to hit the Top 20. Consumers can recall beer brands, but the spirits ads appear to have faded into obscurity.

Virgin Vodka was the first ad to use the new freedom - making its debut in June with the first commercial from the 'spirit world'.

But, since then, there have been few ads that have made much impact. James Kydd, marketing director of The Virgin Trading Company, says spirit brands have so far failed to capitalise on the opportunities open to it through television.

Spirit mediums

"The industry has been so shocked by the ability to go on TV that they have produced very average ads. They feel uncomfortable with this new medium."

He accuses most of the ads of being boring and conventional and claims the supposedly funny ones simply aren't. "They are going to have to think of something better than 'Hello, we're trying to be young'," he concludes.

So why are the spirits companies being so unadventurous and failing to produce ads that make an impact? Are they about to give up on TV and return to below-the-line?

They say definitely not and insist they have had to be cautious because alcohol is such a volatile and emotive sector. The uproar over alcoholic soft drinks demonstrates how passionately people feel about it.

'Alcopops' account for a tiny part of the brewer's profits: the market will be worth an estimated [pounds]250m by next year. But UK consumers spend over [pounds]4bn a year on spirits (Adam Smith Institute) so no chances can be taken.

The problem for the spirits makers is most of their drinkers are over 50. The under-35s have turned their backs on their parents' drinking habits in favour of beer and TV advertising was hailed as the best hope to change their attitudes.

Despite its inauspicious start, spirits makers are generally pleased with the move on to TV. …

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