In the Doghouse

In the Doghouse

For A-B InBev, Marriage Equality = Beer

BudEqualityPicApril 4, 2013
In the last few weeks, support for marriage equality rolled through Facebook and prompted millions of users to change their profile pictures to the red and pink equality symbol from the Human Rights Campaign. Unfortunately, A-B InBev has taken an important social movement and turned it into just another opportunity to make money from its products that cause so much harm, especially for the LGBT community. The Belgian beer conglomerate altered the HRC's logo to highlight two Bud Light beer cans, then posted the doctored image to the Bud Light official Facebook page.

While A-B InBev taking every possible opportunity to promote its brands is neither surprising nor anything new, this particular move seems like even more of a slick grab for attention that degrades the millions of Americans who are fighting for the issue of marriage equality on a real, substantive level. (Even more embarrassing for the conglomerate is the fact that A-B InBev is not even among the list of 278 major employers  who filed a brief publicly opposing DOMA and argued that it is bad for business.)

Obviously there is no limit to A-B InBev's audacity and the lengths it will go to promote its products. While it co-opts the HRC marriage equality logo for Bud Light, alcohol and related harm continues to be a major health concern for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, especially LGBT youth. And A-B InBev still remains a primary sponsor of the UFC, whose president and various "athletes" came under fire last year for homophobic, sexist, violent, and derogatory remarks.

Equality? Human rights? Not so much.


Hot in Hollywood: Celebs Shilling for - and Owning - Alcohol Brands

PDiddyCirocMarch 18, 2013

The latest hot trend among Hollywood's biggest names is not launching their own perfume or creating a designer collaboration at Target - it's much more dangerous than that. No, the latest Hollywood phenomenon is celebrity-branded booze. From liqueur to limoncello, wine to whiskey - it seems like everyone who is anyone is jumping on the booze train. 
The trend spans all sectors of the entertainment industry. Musicians seem to lead the way, with entertainers as diverse as Hanson (MMMHop IPA), Sean Combs (Ciroc Vodka), Willlie Nelson (Whiskey River Bourbon), Ludacris (Conjure Cognac), Marilyn Manson (Mansinthe), Justin Timberlake (901 Silver Tequila) all shilling for brands. Actors like Dan Ackroyd (Crystal Head Vodka) and Danny Devito (Danny DeVito Limoncello) have gotten into the game. Media and reality television stars like Donald Trump (Trump Super Premium Vodka) and Bethenny Frankel (Skinny Girl Cocktails) can't be left out. Even the fashion set is throwing their hats in the ring as Roberto Cavalli has done with his namesake vodka. Not to be left out, professional sports stars are now starting brands as well. Basketball start Yao Ming now owns Yao Family Wines, which operates in China. 
The ownership arrangements of these brands are as diverse as the celebrities themselves. Some lend their name and time to promoting them in return for a big paycheck, as Snoop Dogg does with Blast by Colt 44 (Pabst). Some own the companies outright, like Justin Timberlake and Roberto Cavalli. Some even share ownership of their brands with Big Alcohol heavyweights, like P. Diddy's 50-50 ownership split of Ciroc with Diageo. In the end, some sell their alcohol company in its entirety to a Big(ger) Alcohol corporation, the way Bethanny Frankel did with Skinnygirl (sold to Beam Global in 2011) and Sammy Hagar did with his Cabo Wabo Tequila (sold to Campari/Skyy in 2009).
The phenomenon of celebrity entertainers promoting alcohol brands is clearly dangerous to public health. Celebrities send the message that alcohol is cool, sexy, and socially desirable. As public figures, celebrities are admired and celebrated by their many fans, many of whom are children. And when celebrities own alcohol brands, and sell those brands to bigger alcohol corporations for millions, it sends an even worse message. That is one true Hollywood story without a happy ending in sight.

Four Loko Frat Boys Spanked by FTC

February 21, 2013

four loko founders01Phusion Projects is by no means new to the Doghouse - the company's been put in here several times before for its deceptive marketingyouth-oriented approach, and avoidance of regulators (let's not forget its harmful caffeinated alcohol products). Last week, Phusion was reprimanded by the FTC for "falsely claiming that a 23.5-ounce can of Four Loko contains the alcohol equivalent of one or two regular 12-ounce beers, and that a consumer could drink one entire can safely on a single occasion."
The FTC ruling gives Phusion six months to put an Alcohol Facts panel showing the container size, percentage alcohol by volume, number of servings in the container, and serving size in fluid ounces, on containers of Four Loko and any other flavored malt beverage containing more than two servings of alcohol. Phusion also has to make resealable containers for any of its products that contain more than two and a half servings of alcohol (something Phusion said it would do back when the agreement was originally proposed in 2011, but hasn't since implemented without a little push from the FTC). 
Accurate labels on all alcoholic beverages - beer, wine, spirits, and alcopops alike - should have been placed on the containers decades ago. Resealable containers are barely a bandage on a much larger wound - there is no evidence that resealable containers of youth-oriented, high-ABV alcopops will discourage dangerous binge drinking and the harm that results. These two steps won't get these deadly products off the shelves of convenience, grocery, and neighborhood corner stores. Phusion will still produce supersized products that contain extreme amounts of alcohol per container and are clearly designed to be bright, exciting, and attractive to kids. 
Despite the action taken by the FTC, more meaningful change is still necessary for Phusion, other alcopops producers, and the rest of the industry. Diageo hailed the FTC ruling immediately after the story broke, with Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) following along in agreement. When Diageo North America EVP Guy L. Smith - the guy who coined the term "serial alcophobe" to insult professionals who advocate for population-based alcohol policy that actually reduces alcohol-related harm - hails a decision, it doesn't bode well for public health.