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Rheingold Defends New York Nightlife

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NEW YORK Powell and Rheingold tackle New York City legal codes that affect nightlife in a "Don't sleep" local TV campaign breaking on Wednesday.

One of three 30-second spots shows people striding down the street with ashtrays in their pockets as a voiceover describes New York in a rhythmic manner. "This is New York, where black air buzzes with stop lights and street lamps and boot steps beat the blacktop," the narrator says. The people are then seen walking into bars and slamming their ashtrays down on tables. "This is New York. And we can't sleep 'til we take it back," the voiceover states, as onscreen copy reads: "NYC Admin. Code 17-502B. No Smoking in a bar. Fines issued: $200.00 & Up."

The two other TV spots present people dancing in bars without a cabaret license and sitting on milk crates. In May, a man in the Bronx was ticketed for sitting on a milk crate because he did not own it.

"If there is a company that has license to speak out and give commentary, it would be Rheingold because they've been here such a long time," says Neil Powell, founder of the New York shop and art director on the campaign. "They're speaking out against issues that affect New York City nightlife. Rather than doing a conventional campaign about low carbs or how great their hops are, we decided to use the advertising campaign as a platform for objecting to these laws."

"We want to sell beer, but we also want to stand out from traditional ads," said Tom Bendheim, president and CEO of the Utica, N.Y.-based brewer. "The campaign is very much about community—we're addressing issues of importance and concern in New York."

The commercials, directed by David Gordon Green of Chelsea Pictures in New York, were shot over three days in mid-March. In addition to the spots, which break Wednesday at midnight and will run between 12-4 a.m. on cable channels in the New York metro area including Comedy Central, ESPN, Spike TV and MTV, Powell branded metal gratings that retailers pull down over storefronts when they close and lightboxes, which hang in bar windows, with the Rheingold logo.

"Don't sleep" has two meanings, according to Josh Rogers, copywriter on the campaign. "This is the city that never sleeps, and Rheingold is the New York beer brand that never sleeps," he said. The phrase also should remind people "not to sleep on issues."