Santa beer ad stirs controversy

A woman walks into a Mac's store at Gerrard and Mutual Sts. yesterday. A new ad campaign for...

A woman walks into a Mac's store at Gerrard and Mutual Sts. yesterday. A new ad campaign for de-alcoholized beer has Torontonians saying it's not an appropriate message for children. (Greg Henkenhaf, Toronto Sun)

JENNY YUEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:22 AM ET

Santa may be trading in his plates of cookies and glasses of milk and sucking back cold ones this Christmas.

That's the message Labatt is sending after ads surfaced at Mac's Convenience Stores across Ontario saying, "Leave one out for Santa. He's driving," and show a bottle of Labatt's Blue de-alcoholized beer.

It made its debut at 45 Mac's stores across the GTA in November and will run until month's end.

But some consumers say it sends the wrong message. "I don't think that's quite appropriate," said Kathleen Clifford, 65, who saw the ad at a Mac's at Gerrard and Mutual Sts. yesterday.

"Children see that and they think we'd better leave beer for Santa instead of cookies and milk." she said. "I have grandchildren and great-granchildren and I don't approve of it. "Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy."

Another woman said she wasn't offended, but could see how it might offend.

"I also don't have children, so I'm fairly indifferent to it," said Maryann Green, 22, a Ryerson University student.

HAS A MESSAGE

But Labatt said the message is to remind people not to drink and drive.

"It's reminding people, especially during this holiday season, when people are going out to celebrate, not to drink and drive," said Catherine Pringle, corporate affairs manager of Labatt Breweries of Canada. "Some of the posters direct people to makingaplan.ca, which is a website to plan ahead and reinforcing people not to drink and drive," she said.

Mothers Against Drinking and Driving said it has no problem with it because it's alcohol-free beer -- even though it actually contains "0.5% or less."

"This is not drinking and driving. It's a Labatt issue and whatever their philosophy is behind the ad is certainly up to them," said MADD Canada president Margaret Miller.

But Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University said the ad breaks the "golden rule" to never associate drinking with driving in a sales pitch.

"They're positioning that you can have a beer and you're still safe to drive, but they can't control how many of those 0.5% beers people consume," Middleton said.

"They thought being this lower alcohol would get them off the hook, but I don't think it does. This is a silly ad and if they've got a decent product, it should be powerful enough."

JENNY.YUEN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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