INTERNATIONAL ISSUES: Sizzling sauces blur US spirits ad ban definition - Jack Daniel’s now appears on TV in a link-up with TGI Friday’s. By Karen Benezra

American consumers have recently been getting an extra shot of alcoholic spirits where they least expect them: in supermarket aisles, on select television stations and at family-friendly restaurants.

American consumers have recently been getting an extra shot of

alcoholic spirits where they least expect them: in supermarket aisles,

on select television stations and at family-friendly restaurants.



Alcoholic beverage marketers, with the exception of those selling wine

and beer, have long adhered to a self-imposed ban on television

advertising.



However, over the past 12 months more companies have been following the

lead of Seagram - which ran its first TV ad for Crown Royal Whiskey last

autumn - in testing the limits of those TV restrictions. Seagram

executives have argued that spirits ads should fall under the same

regulations as beer advertising, which is allowed on sports and

entertainment programming as well as in the arenas themselves.



The ban was also breached when local and cable stations broadcast a

dollars 20 million campaign for Kahlua Drinks to Go, a new line of

ready-to-drink cocktails from Hiram Walker’s coffee liqueur brand, which

are only 7 per cent alcohol by volume - comparable with a strong beer.

But one of the more controversial threats to the ban is the increasingly

popular practice of ’co-branding’.



Major liqueur brands such as Kahlua are popping up in brownies, while

Baileys Irish Cream can be found in Haagen-Dazs ice-cream. TGI Friday’s,

meanwhile, reports strong sales of its Jack Daniel’s Grill line of

chicken, ribs, pork and salmon dishes which all feature the brand as a

key cooking ingredient. Advertising for the line, which began in

mid-April, features scenes from a restaurant interior, mixed with the

visual of a sizzling steak and the Jack Daniel’s logo flashing on

screen. Critics, however, say the commercial skirts the decades-long

television ban on spirits brands.



Two broadcast networks, ABC and CBS, refused to air the commercial,

citing the liquor ban, although General Electric’s NBC unit and several

cable television stations saw no conflict. TGI Friday’s, known for its

lively bars and carnival atmosphere, has been downplaying the

controversy. John Gilbert, vice-president of marketing at the restaurant

chain, says he considers the Jack Daniel’s Grill range in keeping with

its heritage of providing excitement to consumers. ’We’ve downplayed the

alcoholic component pretty substantially and focused on the grilled

taste and cooking heritage,’ he points out.



The new line has enabled the chain to expand its centre-plate offerings

with a signature sauce, and do so at a slightly higher price than its

regular grilled dishes, according to Gilbert. And with a global brand

like Jack Daniel’s, he says the concept will also offer considerable

opportunities for export: the grilled entrees have recently surfaced on

TGI Friday’s menus in the UK and Korea.



Brown-Forman of Louisville, Kentucky, the maker of Jack Daniel’s, has

produced several cookbooks featuring the brand in recipes, including a

bread pudding laced with whiskey currently on the menu at the Ground

Round steak chain. But these products have not appeared on television

and not attracted controversy.