High- power launch

Molson Breweries will roll out its new Molson XXX this week in Ontario, days after launching the high-powered 7.3% ice-brewed beer in Quebec.While Molson has pumped up the alcohol content beyond the 7.1% of Maximum Ice, made by competitor Labatt Breweries...

Molson Breweries will roll out its new Molson XXX this week in Ontario, days after launching the high-powered 7.3% ice-brewed beer in Quebec.

While Molson has pumped up the alcohol content beyond the 7.1% of Maximum Ice, made by competitor Labatt Breweries of Canada, it promises a kinder, gentler marketing campaign for the new brand.

Charles Fremes, Molson’s vice-president of public affairs, says the brewer will market the brew in accordance with its own voluntary code for the responsible marketing of high-alcohol beer.

The country’s largest domestic brewer issued the code last week before the launch of Molson XXX.

Fremes also says Molson hopes the code, which covers the areas of advertising, marketing, pricing and distribution for beer with alcohol content over 7%, will stimulate the process of self-regulation by the brewing industry.

Molson says beer with 7%-plus alcohol levels should:

- be sold only in Liquor Control Board of Ontario outlets

- not be promoted on student campuses, pubs or residences

- not be advertised on tv before 9:30 p.m.

- not be advertised using ‘spokespersons, imagery, language, music or gestures that target young adults’

- carry an on-carton advisory encouraging moderation.

Fremes says the code is a response to public and government concerns over Labatt’s controversial Maximum Ice campaign.

The launch of the Labatt campaign, which went to air last month, prompted an outcry from the usual opponents of alcohol advertising, including anti-drunk driving groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (madd) and the Canadian Automobile Association (caa.)

Among other things, opponents contend the advertising targets young adults with its creative approach and use of spokespersons.

One of the loudest opponents of the campaign was Molson, which also assisted anti-drunk driving groups in staging their anti-Maximum Ice campaigns.

On Nov. 8, members of the brewing industry met with the Ontario provincial government to discuss the controversy over the marketing of high alcohol beer and, in particular, Labatt’s targeting of the youth market.

At the meeting, it was agreed the industry would form a task force and report back to Consumer & Corporate Relations on Nov. 22.

Paul Smith, Labatt’s director of public relations, says Labatt has no immediate plans to alter its Maximum Ice advertising as a result of the meeting, explaining it is waiting to see what the task force concludes.

Labatt has plenty to lose if it pulls the Maximum Ice advertising off the air.

Smith has noted the premium-priced brand has captured as much as 2% of the national beer market, and has the potential to maintain a 1.5% to 2% share over the long term.

Molson said at the meeting its concern about Labatt’s approach to marketing Maximum Ice has prompted it to urge the introduction of industry-wide guidelines.

Ontario’s microbreweries, which have produced high-alcohol beers for years, voiced resentment about being put in the same category as Labatt because, as they pointed out, they do not use television for mass marketing.

Labatt stated it does not believe there is a genuine public controversy resulting from its Maximum Ice advertising.

madd responded to Labatt’s public posture with a letter to Marilyn Churley, minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations, urging the government to ensure that the guidelines adopted by Molson become the standard throughout the brewing industry.

madd also expressed regret that Molson had decided to enter the high-alcohol beer segment, but added it understands the competitive nature of the beer business.

Advertising for Molson XXX is being handled by MacLaren: Lintas, Toronto. PS