Beer Drinkers Group Frothing Over Taxes, but Its Pleas Leave Some Mad


Beer Drinkers of America wants you. It wants you to help it fight new taxes on beer. It wants you to carry its official membership card. And it wants you to send it $5.

If you haven’t heard of Beer Drinkers of America, then you’re probably not a male who owns a truck or a gun--or subscribes to sports publications. That’s who the group says many of its members are.

This is a big time of year for Beer Drinkers. The 3-year-old Costa Mesa-based organization, which calls itself a nonprofit consumer education and advocacy group, just completed a massive membership drive. It mailed more than 1 million letters nationwide. The letters ask people to urge representatives to vote against new beer taxes.


What the membership letter fails to mention is that two giant brewers--Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Co.--underwrite more than half of its costs. Beer Drinkers won’t say how much it receives from the brewers, nor will it reveal its annual budget. But Anheuser-Busch and Miller spokesmen confirm that they give “substantial” amounts of money to Beer Drinkers.

But Beer Drinkers has also upset some people, particularly parents. Some youngsters well under the legal drinking age have received Beer Drinkers membership cards. “They’re marketing their organization to underage youth, and we’re opposed to that,” said Andy Briscoe, national public affairs director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“We’ve redoubled our efforts to make sure that won’t happen any more,” said Bill Schreiber, executive director of the group.

This year’s membership letter is signed by the group’s new “honorary chairman,” Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer. He was paid for his endorsement, but Beer Drinkers declined to state how much. Musial, who recently underwent cancer surgery, could not be reached for comment.

“I don’t know how much beer you drink and how often you watch TV sports,” Musial says in the letter. “But unless our fight succeeds, you may pay another dollar on each six pack and as much as $300 every year to watch sports on pay TV.”

These direct-mail membership pitches have been extremely successful. In just three years, the group says it has amassed 350,000 members nationwide, including 80,000 in California.


Exactly what is Beer Drinkers of America?

Well, it would like to be the National Rifle Assn. of the beer industry. “There is a similarity between the NRA and Beer Drinkers of America,” Schreiber said. “We like to think we would eventually generate that kind of clout.”

The group’s membership letter says its members are “business executives, retirees, skilled laborers, firefighters, sales reps, farm managers, accountants and clerks who choose beer as their beverage of choice.” And Beer Drinkers’ patriotism can hardly be questioned. As gifts, its first 50 new members this year were sent flags previously flown over the U.S. Capitol.

“They have a chance to become a major force that legislators might listen to,” said Jerry Steinman, publisher of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a beer industry newsletter.

Before the group signed Stan Musial as spokesman, its paid “honorary chairman” was Bobby Unser Jr., the race car driver. In fact, Unser, who lives in Albuquerque, played a major role in founding the group three years ago.

“I was with them from conception,” Unser said in a phone interview. But last summer, Unser was arrested--and found innocent--on charges of drunken driving. A judge ruled that the evidence was insufficient.

Unser said that incident has nothing to do with why he is no longer honorary chairman of Beer Drinkers. “They wanted me to become more involved and I just didn’t have the time,” he said. “But I still back the program 100%.”


Beer Drinkers is especially proud of its “Party Smart Education Project.” Under this program, the organization distributes literature that emphasizes drinking responsibly. The literature was distributed at the New Orleans Hyatt Regency before this year’s Super Bowl. In fact, Steve Beuerlein, the Los Angeles Raiders quarterback, was paid by the group to hand out the brochures there.

Now Beuerlein is the paid “honorary chairman” of the Party Smart program. And during the upcoming spring break, he will distribute Party Smart literature in Daytona Beach, Fla., and judge a sand-sculpting contest sponsored by Beer Drinkers. Beuerlein did not return several calls. But in the group’s literature he offers several “Tips for Smarter Partying.” Among them: “An offensive lineman can probably drink more than a quarterback: Know your limit. How much you weigh is one of the factors in determining how much you can drink.”

Beer Drinkers insists that it is not a beer industry puppet. “We’re not dictated to or influenced by the beer makers industry,” said Schreiber.

But Linda Atkinson, president of MADD’s chapter in Albuquerque, the city where Beer Drinkers was founded, has her doubts. “If a lot of their money is coming from the beer industry,” she posed, “how can they help but be influenced by them?”

Movietime Gets BBDO to Help Change Image

Movietime won’t be Movietime much longer. And although it is changing its image--and name--the cable channel has also handed its estimated $3-million advertising account to BBDO Los Angeles.

The channel, received by about 1.2 million households in the Los Angeles market, is trying to broaden its offerings from movie news to more general entertainment coverage. And its new ad agency will be in charge of getting that message across. “We’re going to totally reposition the network,” said Sheri Herman, senior vice president of marketing. “You won’t recognize us.”


Saatchi Gets Another Account From Yamaha

When an ad agency has turmoil at the top, that’s usually when clients back away.

But only a few weeks after Saatchi & Saatchi DFS/Pacific underwent its second major shuffle of top management, one of its largest non-automotive clients awarded the agency new business. Yamaha Motor Corp., which already has the agency creating its motorcycle and snowmobile ads, awarded its estimated $2-million power equipment business to the agency. Yamaha’s total ad billings at Saatchi DFS exceed $7 million.

“Psychologically, it was a big win for us,” said Joe Cronin, president of the agency, whose biggest client is Toyota Motor Co. “The best way to grow is through existing clients.” Among the new products that the agency will handle are Yamaha lawn tractors, generators and snow blowers. But what does an agency in Torrance know about creating snow-blower ads? “I’m originally from Boston,” said Cronin. “I know a thing or two about snow.”

Maybe Agency’s Third Time Will Be Charmed

Jack Mealer says he feels like the Billy Martin of advertising.

Baseball’s outspoken Martin was repeatedly hired and fired as New York Yankee manager by owner George Steinbrenner. And over the past 10 years, Mealer’s Costa Mesa agency, Roberts/Mealer/Cunningham, has been through a similar revolving door with Cahn Instruments, a Cerritos maker of specialized measuring devices.

It was just re-hired by the company for the third time last week. “They found out the grass really wasn’t greener,” said Mealer, who this time has a one-year contract with the client. “To tell you the truth, I was afraid to call Jack this time,” said Linda Raabe, marketing services manager at Cahn Instruments. “I figured he’d hang up on me.”

Bozell Hires Newhoff for Top Creative Post

Less than one month after the Los Angeles ad agency Abert Newhoff & Burr called it quits, one of its founders has been grabbed by another Los Angeles ad shop.

Mel Newhoff, who was president of the agency, has been named executive creative director of the Los Angeles office of Bozell. Newhoff could not be reached for comment Monday.


“He’s the kind of talent we need to compete in the Los Angeles marketplace,” said Renee Fraser, general manager of Bozell. Newhoff replaces Hy Yablonka, who recently took on wider corporate responsibilities with Bozell. Newhoff will report to Fraser.