Keeping the low-brows in check

Burt Helm

Deep inside the Beltway, there is a place where humor goes to die. In that place, a few blocks from the toy safety advocacy groups and Ralph Nader’s offices, is the headquarters of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). Twice a year the group issues a report of complaints it has received concerning inappropriate liquor advertisements. While I admire this in principle, in reality DISCUS approaches the apex of absurdity. Up ahead is an excerpt from the report.

Advertisement: Svedka Vodka website advertising and marketing materials

Complaint Summary: Complainant believes the advertising
and marketing materials violate
Responsible Content Provision No. 25 of
the Code: “[B]everage alcohol advertising
and marketing materials should not
rely upon sexual prowess or sexual success
as a selling point for the brand” and
“should not contain or depict: graphic
or gratuitous nudity;…[or] promiscuity”
and Responsible Content Provision No.
21: “Beverage alcohol advertising and
marketing materials should reflect generally
accepted contemporary standards of good taste.”

Code Review Board Decision: The Board found the use of statements such as “Pleasure all of your 17 erogenous zones with Svedka” and “She is wired for fun, flirting and the occasional
foursome”; depictions of scantily clad women, such as the hologram of the “statue
of liberty”; the eagle on the flag with breasts, handcuffs and a whip; and the
descriptions of drink recipes such as “The Cherry Pie”… “Cupid’s Honey,”…and “The Booty Call”…on the Svedka website were inconsistent with Responsible Content Provisions Nos. 25 and 21.

Action by Advertiser: No response from the advertiser

Status: Board continues to urge the advertiser to revise these advertising and marketing
materials in light of the Code’s provisions.

Tasteless advertising, to be sure. I’m glad the council will continue to take them to task with stern letters, even though it appears to be totally ineffectual. But if DISCUS doesn’t try to put a halt to depictions of eagles with breasts, who will?

The full complaint report is here on the DISCUS website, and it includes several other infractions, including one complaint that a Seagram’s Gin advertisement could encourage barbers to cut hair while drunk. Happy Friday.

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