SABAR Again Takes on Anheuser-Busch Ads

A group that last year challenged Anheuser-Busch (AB) shareholders to change the giant brewer's advertising tactics is shifting gears in its battle against ads aimed at underage youth.

Shareholders of Anheuser Busch for Advertising Reform (SABAR) — a collaborative of groups like the Center on Alcohol Advertising, the Marin Institute and others who own AB stock — last year submitted a proposal at the company's annual shareholders' meeting called for a review of company advertising practices to ensure that they don't appeal to children.

Shareholders overwhelmingly rejected the proposal, and AB Chairman August Busch III accused SABAR of seeking to reinstate alcohol prohibition.

Undaunted, SABAR is back this year but taking a different tack. AB bylaws prohibit the group from resubmitting the same proposal two years in a row, so instead the group has organized a contest calling on kids in grades 5 to 12 to design a beer counter-ad poster, a warning label for beer bottles, and to write a letter to AB demanding that company ads be “child-proofed.” Prizes of $500, $250 and $100 will be awarded in the contest, which ends this week.

Laurie Leiber, M.P.H., director of the Center on Alcohol Advertising, tells Join Together that she hopes that “when they get older there will be an impact [from participating in the contest] on the choices these kids make as voters and community educators.”

SABAR also wants to make an impact on public opinion regarding the nation's largest alcoholic-beverage producer, which has been widely criticized for using cartoon characters and animated frogs and lizards to sell its products. Critics say these tactics appeal to children; the company denies it.

The winners of the SABAR contest will be announced at a press conference to be held on the same day as AB's 1999 shareholder's meeting. “We want to demonstrate in whatever way we can that the public is not going to tolerate these advertising tactics,” said Diana Conti, executive director of the Marin Institute.

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