CAMPAIGNS: Quintus tips the balance in IFSP battle - Public Affairs

Client: The International Federation of Spirit Producers PR Team: Quintus Public Affairs Campaign: The Substitution Campaign Timescale: February-July 2003 Budget: £10,000

'Substitution' or 'tipping' is when pubs, restaurants and bars illegally replace branded spirits with cheaper or bootlegged equivalents.

The International Federation of Spirit Producers (IFSP) campaigns against the practice. Its 2002 survey of 1,000 publicans found that eight per cent of them admitted to the practice.

The IFSP claims that tipping costs consumers £10m a year. As the Licensing Bill began its passage through parliament in February, the body hired Quintus to present an amendment aimed at countering the problem.

Objectives

To reform the law to make substitution an offence punishable by the removal of licences.

Strategy and Plan

The strategy was to frame an amendment that could easily be incorporated into the Bill, then convince Licensing Minister Kim Howells and his officials in the licensing division of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the amendment was in keeping with the main objectives of the Bill - transferring licensing responsibility from magistrates to local authorities and ensuring consumer protection. Quintus emphasised the amendment was consumer-protective.

When Government officials were initially reluctant to embrace the amendment, Quintus lobbied members of the parliamentary cross-party licensing committee, and other MPs, before returning to the licensing division to discuss the proposal in greater detail.

The biggest challenge was convincing government officials why this was important for consumers. The campaign received backing from coverage in the Scottish press of an East Lothian woman who died after drinking substituted vodka in May, when the Bill was at committee stage. The agency delayed involving the trade press until June, to minimise industry opposition and show the campaign was already under way.

Measurement and Evaluation

Although the focus was on the parliamentary licensing committee and the Licensing Minister, the agency obtained support from a group of between 30 and 40 MPs for the amendment. News stories targeted at the two main trade weeklies - The Publican and the Morning Advertiser - generated positive coverage. By June, shortly before the Bill was passed into law, the Government had incorporated the substitution amendment into the Bill.

Results

The Bill was passed in July, with the amendment. The Publican news editor Nicola Collenette said: 'The amendment was included and that was the point of the campaign, so the lobbying had been very effective. It's an important issue for the trade and this clearly shows the extent of the problem.

Quintus was very helpful in providing us with information.'

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