"Daddy's Girl," created by Cannonball, St. Louis, breaks tonight during NBC's "Deal or No Deal" and will run throughout May on cable stations--including CNN, USA, TBS and A&E, as well as national sports broadcasts.
The commercial takes the viewer through four stages in the lives of a girl and her father, who appears to be single. As a little girl, she begs for a puppy, and her dad relents. Several years later, she begs for "10 more minutes" before having to go to bed; he relents. As a young teen, she asks to be allowed to buy both dresses while shopping; he relents. Then as an older teen, she asks if he'll buy alcohol for her party at home and he says, "Absolutely not."
Parents of teenage girls will clearly recognize the girl's reaction: "You never let me have anything! I hate you!" as the voiceover intones: "Don't be a pushover; be a parent," and "Prevent. Don't provide alcohol to minors."
John Kaestner, vice president/Consumer Affairs, Anheuser-Busch, says the campaign is about being a good role model and opening the lines of communications with kids. "We're running it during sportscasts because we think it's important to get the message home to parents who are sitting watching TV. It's a learning moment you can use to talk with your kids about these issues."
The ad is part of an effort begun two years ago that reminds adults and parents that it is illegal, if not immoral, to provide alcohol to minors.
A father and grandfather himself, Kaestner says Anheuser is trying to show parents that they have "a tremendous amount of influence on underage drinking--that there are rules and consequences. You want to make sure that dialogue is always going on."
Plus, as he points out, if a parent says no, kids can blame the parent in the face of peer pressure.
Whether the brewer's efforts to curb underage drinking appear self-serving in that they buffer criticism of marketing to minors such as recent criticism of A-B's Spykes, which are packaged much like nail polish, the company's been applying itself a quarter century now.
"We divide the year into focus periods," says Kaestner. "We have a spring push during prom and graduation season with reminders to retailers to check IDs. During the summer, we hit hard on underage messaging, especially at Memorial Day and July Fourth, and on drunk driving and designated drivers.
"In the fall, during the back-to-school period, we come back again with these kinds of messages to parents, to keep the dialogue going. At the holidays, we heavy up again on designated driver messaging. So it's a fluctuating, pulsating message."
Kaestner admits that from a business perspective, 25 years of messages about the culture's problems associated with underage and irresponsible drinking have had an impact on the brand.
"It's good to convey this message that adults and consumers have a responsibility, but it's also a personal one. Here at Anheuser-Busch, we have 25,000 people--most of them parents--and we don't want our own kids drinking under the legal age or driving drunk. We don't have a special buffer around our cars.
"From a business perspective, it's immensely important to let people know we care about these things," he says. "We've spent $580 million with our wholesalers on programs such as these efforts and have over 24 community-based programs, working with educators, law enforcement and retailers."
A 2003 National Academy of Sciences study on underage drinking prepared for the federal government found that two-thirds of kids who drink got alcohol from parents, knowingly or unknowingly, or from other adults or older friends or siblings.
"The trouble is, the retailers can't do anything about this. The products are legally purchased, then given to kids. So we're doing this 'prevent, don't provide' messaging, reminding parents that even if it's a special occasion and they're hosting a party, they're making a decision for someone else's kid."
Editor's note: This story has been amended since publication to correct a minor error.