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NBC to Stop Airing Liquor Ads

Both lawmakers and advocacy groups have recently ratcheted up pressure on the network not to proceed with the ads.

NBC began airing what it calls “branded social responsibility advertising” — ads promoting responsible drinking sponsored by Smirnoff vodka — in December. The network says it will not proceed with the ad campaign’s next phase, which would have included more direct advertising for hard liquor products.

“Recently, the bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate Commerce Committee asked NBC to reconsider our policy on distilled spirits advertising and to continue discussions with various public health and interest groups,” NBC said in a statement.

“We are therefore ending the first phase of branded social responsibility advertising on our network and will not proceed into the next phase of carrying product advertising for distilled spirits,” it said.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), who, with 12 other lawmakers, sent a letter to NBC warning of more rigorous Congressional advertising regulations, told the NewsHour in January he thought liquor ads would accentuate existing social problems.

“To bring this advertising back in at this time, we believe, will bring [an] increase in drunk driving, in teenage suicide, in homicide, and will create many, many problems,” he said.

But Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, an industry advocacy group, on the same program defended NBC’s liquor advertising guidelines and said the ads wouldn’t necessarily prompt an increase in drinking.

“Quite clearly, when one looks at the literature, there is virtually no impact on the decision to begin drinking or the decision to drink more as a result of advertising,” Cressy said.

Reacting to today’s decision, Distilled Spirits Council spokesman Frank Coleman said he thought lobbying by beer brewers was partly to blame for the network’s decision.

“They say they buckled under to the critics,” Coleman told Reuters. “We say that too, but clearly beer wants the marketplace to itself.”

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