NEW YORK: Cowed by an intensifying public outcry, NBC has backed away from its controversial decision to broadcast ads for hard-liquor products.The announcement, made last Wednesday, came a day before Mothers Against Drunk Driving planned to serve up its latest attack on the network, which has suffered a hangover of bad publicity since breaking with a self-imposed ban on such spots in December.
"We went into this knowing we'd be plowing new ground, and it would not come without controversy,
Alan Wurtzel, NBC president for research, told The New York Times.
"We said we would do it as responsibly as we could, and after listening to the House and Senate and the interest groups, we felt it was appropriate to go to the next step at this point."
Under guidelines established by the network, distilled spirits makers were required to run "drink responsibly
segments for four months before promoting specific brands.
Guinness UDV - which to date was the only client NBC had signed - began its block of social responsibility segments late last year. NBC's reversal means that Guinness UDV's ads for Smirnoff Vodka - slated to roll out in April - will not air.
The coalition rallying against the liquor ads owed its muscle in part to the backing of the American Medical Association (AMA). It gained added leveraged after 13 members of Congress sent a letter to NBC threatening to regulate advertising if the network refused to rethink its stance.
"The public pressure exerted on NBC sent a clear message that our nation will not tolerate exposing young people to even more dangerous influences on TV,
said AMA chair-elect Edward Hill in a statement. "We hope all networks will continue to honor the voluntary ban that has been in place for decades."