In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

A-B InBev Steamrolls National Policy for World Cup Sales

August 24, 2014

Anheuser-Busch InBev (A-B InBev) is on a roll: it reaped huge profits from a worldwide surge in alcohol consumption prompted by its official sponsorship of the FIFA 2014 World Cup. This, after A-B InBev and FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) strongarmed Brazil to change its laws banning alcohol sales at sports stadiums for the World Cup, despite protests from the Brazilian government and its people.

The extent of A-B InBev's penetration into the World Cup experience was unprecedented. An Out-Of-Home (OOH) "Rise as One" advertising campaign via ClearChannel ensured constant exposure to Budweiser marketing and promotion, making the event inseparable from the Budweiser brand for all fans and viewers, including millions of youth.

A-B InBev's political might shows no sign of losing steam. For the 2018 World Cup, A-B InBev and FIFA have now cajoled Russia into reversing a 2012 ban on alcohol advertising that was adopted as part of former President Medvedev's 2009 strategy to fight rampant alcohol problems in the country. Russians will now be exposed to alcohol advertising on TV and in stadiums until the 2018 World Cup concludes. But what's a country's health and safety compared to record beer sales?

Pernod Ricard's New App: "Drinking is Smart!"

August 6, 2014

Pernod Drinking App
Pernod Ricard's mobile alcohol consumption app promotes excessive alcohol consumption and gives a false impression that drinking alcohol is a smart and healthy choice.

Pernod Ricard has released a new alcohol consumption calculator app that tracks users' alcohol consumption, ostensibly helping users avoid excessive consumption. What the app actually does is encourage users to drink, promoting messages that drinking is "smart," "wise," and a healthy choice.

The app also uses geolocation to encourage users to drink as much as possible within the local law, and find local transportation when they've consumed more than the legal limit (although the app does not measure blood alcohol level, creating the potential for drunk drivers to assume they are OK to drive). In addition, the app recommends daily alcohol consumption of 1.4 standard drinks for women (9.8 drinks per week) and 2.1 for men (15 drinks per week) -  levels the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers heavy drinking - and gives the impression that consuming alcohol every day is healthy and normal. Promoting drinking culture is what the app is all about.

Pernod Drinking App
Pernod Ricard's mobile alcohol consumption app calculates consumption in 10-gram units, less than one standard drink (14 grams), encouraging users to drink heavily and believe that they are drinking moderately.

If the app were to actually help users avoid alcohol-related harm, here are a few messages it would share:

  • Moderate alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of stomach, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colorectum, liver, and female breast cancers.
  • There is no safe level of alcohol consumption before driving.
  • Moderate drinking limits of no more than 1 per day for women, 2 for men, are intended as a guideline for any single day, not cumulative over a period of time, as the app represents. Consuming alcohol every day is not moderate consumption.
  • Moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

As Pernod Ricard is likely well aware, its products are already listed in the top 10 brands consumed by underage youth (Absolut) and those disproportionately consumed by youth (Malibu). There is nothing but a useless agegate between underage youth and the app's "download" button. Then users can create a user profile and enter any date they please that represents them as 21 or older.

Which brings us to Pernod's laughable, and lamentable, disclaimer for app downloaders. Pernod's disclaimer reminds users that the app is perfectly useless in actually determining blood alcohol level or a "safe" level of alcohol consumption, and that Pernod is "not responsible whatsoever for any damages resulting from the use of the app or any decisions made by the user."

So you might wonder, where exactly is this "responsibility" of which Pernod Ricard is so proud, since this app was released to coincide with its 4th annual Responsib’All Day as a call to action involving Pernod brands? That's right, responsibility = marketing ploy. Let the drinker/buyer/user beware.

In the Doghouse: DISCUS Spring Break Road Trip for Journalists

May 13, 2014

Shots of Wild Turkey
Journalists received unlimited booze during a 5-day tour of American whiskey facilities, courtesy of the Department of Agriculture and DISCUS.

In an effort to promote American distilled spirits such as Tennessee whiskey under the guise of news, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) treated dozens of journalists last month to a 5-day liquor-sodden Spring Break lobby tour. Journalists were put up at historic hotels, fed fancy dinners, plied with endless shots of whiskey (along with water and vitamins to prolong the onset of pain...and keep them drinking), and given tours of various whiskey facilities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture paid the transportation costs for journalists from other countries to attend the booze cruise, ostensibly to expand the international market for American booze and ease trade agreements. Meanwhile, DISCUS just recruited a bevy of enthusiastic, loyal PR shills who went home after their free vacation able to extol the virtues of Tennessee whiskey and those who produce it.

What's the problem, you say? Consider this: While Uncle Sam paid for writers to get sloshed for 5 days and nights, alcohol-related harm costs U.S. federal, state and local governments $94 billion a year in crime, health care, lost productivity, and property damage. And, while DISCUS threw the whiskey party for journalists, it funneled even more lobbying dollars into the privatization campaign in Oregon, bringing the DISCUS total to $300,000. Along with grocery conglomerates Fred Meyer and Safeway, DISCUS is the leading contributor to Oregonians for Competition, the committee sponsoring the initiative that seeks to wipe out the state's monopoly on liquor and wine sales and reap the profits for themselves. Oregon's state monopoly on liquor sales represents one of the most effective evidence-based policies to prevent excessive consumption and alcohol-related harm. DISCUS spends millions each year (over $5 million in 2013) lobbying against evidence-based alcohol policies, including increased taxes, reduced access and outlet density, state monopolies on alcohol sales, and restrictions on alcohol advertising.

The Surgeon General should treat these journalists to a 5-day tour of hospital emergency rooms, chemotherapy wards, and alcohol rehab facilities, to experience the real legacy of DISCUS, its spirits producer members, and the public health problems they continue to deny.