Liquor Lobby Group Task in Play

Politics, Change at the Client as Bozell Resigns Discus Account
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. is conducting a national search for a new agency to build awareness of spirits versus wine and beer.
Bozell Worldwide, New York, resigned the account in June following complaints from one of its beer or wine clients, sources said.
A Bozell spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the conflict. Bozell was awarded Discus’ ad assignment, its first, last July. At that time, estimated billings were expected to hit $12-15 million.
Bozell’s withdrawal comes at a crucial time for Discus, which is trying to increase liquor’s market share. The hard stuff has not kept up with more popular alcoholic beverages, like beer and wine. Beer, wine and liquor companies spent $1.2 billion on ads last year, up 7 percent from $1.08 billion in 1996, according to industry figures. Distilled spirits advertising accounts for 25 percent of that figure.
“We are very disappointed because Bozell is such a strong agency,” said Discus representative Lisa Hawkins. Hawkins said the council hopes to hire a new shop in the fall.
Distilled spirits companies ended a self-imposed ban on TV and radio advertising in 1996, but the major networks have since refused to air the ads for fear of inviting unwelcome government scrutiny. Liquor ads are currently telecast on local TV (both broadcast and cable) and radio affiliates.
But a recent Supreme Court decision, which struck down the federal government’s ban on TV and radio casino gaming ads, has given the liquor industry new hope of thwarting various local ordinances banning billboard ads for spirits. Hawkins said filing a lawsuit is one option.
Controversy erupted in February, when a Bozell memo discussing a possible $20-40 million TV ad campaign for Discus became public. Discus officials disputed the figures, but Consumer Alert, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group that is affiliated with Ralph Nader, asked the liquor industry not to encourage Americans to drink more by advertising on TV.
The client is also undergoing changes in its top ranks. Peter Cressy, former CEO of the University of Mass. at Dartmouth, will become Discus’ new president on Sept. 1. He replaces the retiring Fred Meister.