Published on: September 6, 2006
We wrote yesterday about a US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) Prevention (CDC) study saying that about 50 percent of advertisements for alcoholic beverages on the radio are broadcast during youth-oriented programs. It was just three years ago that the alcohol industry pledged not to run ads on any program for which 30 percent or more of the audience is under 21 years of age.
However, representatives of the alcohol industry disputed the CDC findings, saying that the numbers were inaccurate and that they didn’t take into account advertising contracts that had not expired.
Our comment: The legal drinking age in the US is 21. There is no excuse for advertising alcoholic products to people under 21. None. Unexpired advertising contracts be damned.
Don’t these people realize that they have a responsibility to someone other than their shareholders?MNB
user Philip Herr responded:Can't agree with your position on this. I teach a course in contemporary issues in marketing and specifically use this example to help my class develop critical thinking. If the CDC can prove that alcohol advertisers are buying space in "Highlights for Kids" or placing booze in Barney, then I can agree, marketers are egregiously guilty. However, much more likely is their media plans include magazines such as Sports Illustrated or FMH (contemporary version of Playboy when I was a teen). And because those publications happen to draw underage drinkers, the CDC beats up on alcohol marketers. So where do you draw the line. Allow alcohol advertisers access only to publications kept behind a counter?
The answer to rampant underage drinking doesn't lie in legislation or regulation. The answer lies in the home where values and appropriate consumption of alcohol should be modeled. But don't get me started on that!
The problem, of course, is that the alcohol industry already agreed to not run ads on any program for which 30 percent or more of the audience is under 21 years of age...which strikes us as a little different from agreeing not to advertise booze on Barney. They struck the agreement, and now are violating it.
user wrote:The more visible damage done the more stink is raised. It is easy to attack alcohol and cigarettes to protect the underage. What I'm starting to see is a broader problem.
I remember back in 2005 wanting to take my 5 year old to see the new “Star Wars”; it a PG-13 movie, so I decided I would watch it first to see if my 5 year old can handle it, and I'm glad I did, because it was way too intense for him. My kid was crushed at not being able to watch it. Everywhere we went there was something that reminded him that he didn't get to see the movie. Every box of cereal reminded him about the movie. He saw commercials for kids meals, toys, and other stuff that he wanted that was tied to the movie that he was not old enough to see.
Earlier this year he really wanted to see the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie. The marketing was so good for this movie that he can recall the movie by its full title. He got the happy meal toys, but that movie was way too intense for him so he didn't get to see it. How many 13 year olds still buy happy meals?
I know I have the primary responsibility to protect and educate my children, but there are a lot of marketing/corporate forces working against me. While this practice is abhorred with cigarettes and alcohol, it seems of little consequence with other marketing campaigns aimed at customers who don't meet age requirements established by the equity being marketed.
Don’t these people realize that they have a responsibility to someone other than their shareholders?
Being a parent is never a popularity contest. And you can immediately tell which parents think it is, because their kids usually are impossibly screwed up.
It’s tough job, but somebody has to do it.
By the way, if you didn’t take him to the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, you did him a favor…because it is a long, bloated piece of crap.
We also got a number of emails about the Consumer Reports
annual rating of the nation’s supermarkets, saying that the best chains in the country are Wegmans Food Markets, Trader Joe's, Publix Super Markets, Raley's, and Whole Foods Market. The five achieved their rating by getting high marks in service, quality of perishables, price and cleanliness.
Next on the list were Harris Teeter, Costco, Lowe’s Foods, Hy-Vee and Stater Bros.MNB
user Tom Drummond wrote:As I have been in every one of the 'best' 5 supermarket chains named, this so called group making this judgment call have evidently not visited or considered a Byerly's or Lund's in Minnesota. They exceed by 'far' the high marks in service, quality of perishables, price and cleanliness than 80% of the 5 named winners.
After judging Raley's on the west coast they evidently caught the 'Red Eye' to the east coast, and miss stopping in the Midwest ...with the exception of Iowa's little hometown stores, Hy-Vee.
user wrote:I do believe that at least 4 out of the top 5 "Best supermarkets" don't require slotting to bring new items in.
Could that also mean that they run a better house?
Food for thought supermarket industry.
And another MNB
user chimed in:Can we just say that these are the best CHAIN supermarkets? I find that the best markets I've ever visited aren't chains at all, but instead are the markets that celebrate their locale. And these are the same markets that chains visit to harvest ideas. But I suppose that's not what Consumer Reports can do...
The reality is that most consumers don’t give a damn whether a store is owned by a chain or is independent, just as they never say “I’m going down to the c-store” or “I’m going to the supercenter.” They go to the stores that serve their needs and speak to their aspirations.
We also had a discussion yesterday about a government proposal to change the definition of “grass-fed beef.”
According to the story, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to change the definition so that only 99% — rather than 100% — of a cow's diet come from grass forage, and by defining forage more broadly to include things such as corn stalks left over from harvests and silage, which is fermented grasses and legumes. The rationale for the change is that the current rules penalize geographic areas of the country where cows cannot graze outside full time.
Critics argue that “grass fed” ought to mean “grass-fed,” and that there should be no room in the definition for compromise; if the definition is changed, they say, it would let more conventional ranchers slap a grass-fed label on their beef, too.
We agree. A reduction in standards is never a good thing.MNB
user Dana Ehrlich, who happens to be CEO of Verde Farms (which we mention because it is relevant to his email), wrote:As a marketer of 100% grass-fed organic beef, watering down the standards does not help the consumer understand an already cluttered, confusing marketplace and reduces the profit incentive for farmers. Without that incentive, farmers will not increase supply which means ultimately the consumers lose out as they are 'forced' to purchase conventional beef from the 4 large meatpackers that control 84% of the US market.
user responded:For readers not familiar with the importance of the “grass fed beef” distinction, I recommend Michael Pollen’s new book Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollen describes clearly and graphically the difference between healthy cattle eating their natural diet of grass versus the near disease state brought on by forcing them to eat corn (and other things too disgusting to mention). The book is required reading for anyone involved with the food industry. Thanks for your column Kevin.
On the subject of Tesco’s US plans, we’ve written that we believe it will redefine the notion of what a convenience store is…and MNB
user Frank Gleeson responded:The Tesco c-store concept may well redefine the offer for this segment but they may well struggle with the implementation, it's not all about design and concept, The human thing must also be right, so the Employees will be key.
We had a story yesterday about a new piece of legislation in California that would require local governments to consider an economic impact report before approving the building of any so-called big box store larger than 100,000 square feet. The bill has been approved by the legislature and sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for his signature. We thought this is a good thing, and wrote that “any local government that does not require an economic impact statement when any major business development is proposed is guilty of dereliction of duty. Doesn’t it make sense that all proposals ought to be seen within the context of how they will affect the community – for better and for worse – before they are approved?”
To which one MNB
user responded:The big question is "who does the study"…
Do we hire a firm like McKinsey and pay $1mm (and triple taxes to pay for an expensive study before every decision)
Do we let the unions pay for a report (that will say any business with non union jobs will be horrible)?
Do we let the business pay for it (so we get reports that says all new development is good)?
Or do we hire a complete idiot do it (like the guy who wrote the report that says California Global Warming restrictions will be good for the economy)?
Are we now to the point that we classify anyone who disagrees with us as “complete idiots”? That doesn’t seem like a good way to encourage legitimate discussion and debate…though it certainly seems typical of political and cultural discourse in the US these days.
As for who does the study…you make a good point. However…that doesn’t mean that communities shouldn’t evaluate how new stores, especially big stores, will affect the local economy and environment. Making these kinds of decisions in a vacuum result in communities that often seem ugly and unworkable.
Want proof? Someday check out the skyline of Stamford, Connecticut, which looks like the local authorities simply handed the keys to a bunch of developers and then went on vacation. Instead of being a uniquely modern and attractive city, it is an eyesore.
We had a story yesterday recounting a fascinating piece in Business Week
about a battle taking place now between Wal-Mart and Apple Computer, a battle that has had the company confronting Hollywood’s studios over the possibility that they may make their films available to consumers via its iTunes online music and video store.
The problem for Wal-Mart is that the online purchase of movies could erode its sale of DVD sales – and Wal-Mart currently accounts for four out of every ten dollars spent on DVDs in the US. (About $17 billion in DVDs are expected to be sold this year.)
Wal-Mart reportedly wants the studios to delay making their films available over the Internet until it has its own download site ready, and also would like to see the wholesale price of DVDs reduced so it can lower its costs and prices.
Which prompted MNB
user Jim Swoboda to write:This is precisely why big is not good...threats around that stops competition simply because they feel they can. It was precisely has derailed many a good idea over the ages, but inevitably, the correct business models win and movies over the Internet is part of the distribution system of choice for consumer. Here is an excerpt from the WSJ on the topic:
Recently, for example, the major studios opened negotiations to provide movies to be played on Apple Computer Inc.'s video iPod -- an important step toward Hollywood's digital future. Then Wal-Mart, the biggest seller of DVDs, disrupted the talks when it delivered a pointed warning to the studios not to give Apple a better deal for digital movies than the retailer gets for physical copies.
"Our conversations with the studios are about what Wal-Mart has always been about -- giving our customers the best value and selection," said a Wal-Mart spokeswoman in an email response.
How does their official email response fit with "delivering a pointed warning"....customers having access to the best value and selection will always be fulfilled when EVERYTHING in movie catalog is available virtually. As for giving Apple a better deal, if one does not have to physically produce, package and distribute a hard copy of a movie, is there not inherent savings that can be passed on to a distributor and ultimately the customer.
Isn't this what Wal-Mart is all about, lowering the costs of doing business? How ironic that they are trying to prevent exactly that.
Self-interest will almost always trump principles…especially if the principle seems to benefit somebody else.