CAMPAIGNS: Public Service PR - Revisiting '80s for teenage drinktest

Client: The Century Council (

PR Team: Internal, help from MGH Advertising (Baltimore)

Campaign: Point-of-sale Pop Culture Campaign (Deterring Underage


Time Frame: July 4, 2000 - December 2001

Budget: Approximately $25,000

"If you've never done the Moon-walk, never wished your name was Rio, or

never listened to an 8-Track, prepare to be carded."

If you're not thinking Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, and tape/CD's

predecessor, drop the beer and step away from the counter.

This was the message brought to underage drinkers by The Century Council

(a nonprofit funded by leading US distillers). Injecting humor into its

long-running point-of-sale campaign aimed at deterring underage

drinking, which accounts for 69% of arrests of US youths under 21, what

could be cornier than kitschy references to 1980s pop culture?


Since its inception in 1991, the Council has distributed over seven

million point-of-sale materials to retailers and wholesalers across the

US, free.

Before overhauling the successful program, the Council had to do some

legwork. A survey was distributed to the four largest retail groups,

which became partners in the campaign. Interviews with bar owners,

storeowners, and restaurant managers showed that humor, combined with

stern warnings, often works to reach underage buyers.

With those results in hand, MGH Advertising, the Council's ad agency,

developed the pop culture theme.


With the campaign reformatted, and a 42-city rollout scheduled to run

through the end of 2001, the Council focused on PR.

To maximize press interest, the campaign was officially unveiled right

before July 4 (in Austin, TX).

"We are targeting cities with universities and medium-size markets,"

says Monica Gallagher, a Council PR rep. "We realize this is not 'hard'

news. We are also strategic on when we unveil the campaign, redoubling

efforts in advance of homecoming, back to school, holidays, spring

break, and prom/graduation."

Since the launch, retailers in 22 US cities have requested over 600,000

point-of-sale materials. Over 20 additional launches are planned for the

rest of 2001.


To help boost awareness, the Council teamed with the National

Association of Beverage Retailers, National License Beverage

Association, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, and the National

Alcohol Beverage Control Association.

Members of these groups spoke at the press events, all hosted at retail

establishments. Additionally, local retailers and wholesalers, law

enforcement reps, and - when possible - university administrators were

also recruited to speak.

The Council also placed an ad in the industry trade magazine Bev Media

to push the cause.


Most network affiliates covered the press events. Print coverage

included The Hartford Courant, The Dallas Morning News, and The Columbus


"We also managed to unveil the campaign in some cities on the same day

that Al Gore or President Bush held a campaign event - and we still

managed to receive press," notes Gallagher.

Then in late May, the campaign received a major boost in national

exposure - on CNN and ABC Network Radio among others - due to the

incident involving Jenna Bush attempting to purchase alcohol in


"Ironically, our campaign was in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio at the

same time that story broke," reflects Gallagher. "Because the incident

brought the issue of underage alcohol purchasing to the forefront, we

got more coverage than usual."


The Council will move on to Oklahoma City, Spokane, WA, Greensboro, NC,

Cheyenne, WY, and others. Enjoying such a positive response, as well as

a ton of suggestions, the Council is also currently developing

additional slogans.

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