The Toronto Star
Wednesday, January 29, 1997

Beer importer hits TV ad snag

by David Israelson

[photo]
Controversial commercial filmed in Portugal shows several dancing couples at the beach.
Fernando Rosa wants Ontario to try Sagres, Portugal's favorite beer, but his efforts are turning him into a potential lawbreaker.

``I don't get it,'' he sighs.

``What's the problem? Is it the sex? Is it something racial?''

No - it's the beer commercial.

The problem for Rosa, who runs a Downsview promotional firm, is that the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario doesn't like Sagres beer's TV ad.

The 30-second commercial, which has not yet been shown on our screens here, is part of a package of nearly $500,000 in promotional material that Sagres and Rosa personally have poured into their plan to bring Portuguese beer to Canada.

The ad is shown in Portugal and many other countries without incident. Sagres is a major brand there.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has approved it.

But we just do not do the things that are done in this commercial, the board has told Rosa. The ad shows people on a beach.

Dancing.

Having a good time.

And drinking beer.

On the beach.

Uh-oh!

If Rosa gets a TV station to show that ad, he's going to have to deal with ``subsection 1(7) of the LLBO's Advertising Guidelines'', says Lynda Clayton, the board's manager of advertising and promotions.

She drafted a letter to Rosa, explaining that drinking beer in a public place is a no-no in our neck of the woods.

``The advertisement's depiction of permanently fixtured furniture on an open beach leaves the viewer with the sense that the scene is that of a public area, which is not a legal setting for the consumption of liquor in Ontario.''

The letter flowed on, explaining that:

``Without the depiction of a residence or any other indicators to infer a private premise, such a conclusion cannot be made and without the area being clearly depicted as a licensed premises with a barrier at least 42 inches in height being shown, the viewer is left with the impression of illegal consumption.''

So it wasn't the woman with the really skimpy skirt, Rosa now figures.

``They say if I edit the commercial, it will be okay, but that's not so easy'', he says.

That would involve turning the ``fixtured furniture'' on the beach into a bar, or putting a picket fence around the area to make it look like somebody's very big backyard or chopping out a split-second where one of the happy dancers is holding up a bottle - perhaps committing the offence of illegal consumption.

All that could be done, but the real difficulty would be in explaining this to the Portuguese brewers, says Rosa. It's already showing signs of bubbling into an international trade incident.

``The Portuguese (brewery officials) are asking me if it's because the commercial shows black people, or dancing girls'', he says.

It's not that, of course. But Rosa says the Portuguese executives find it especially galling because as recently as last November, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien took time during an official visit to Portugal to talk up the heady benefits of trade with Canada.

``There are about 750,000 Portuguese people in Canada who might buy this beer'', he says.

Worse for him, he has made a deal to represent an Ontario brewery, Northern, to the Portuguese.

``I want them to brew Superior Lager (one of Northern's brands) under licence. But they'll see what's going on here and say: Why should we?''

``It's a 30-second commercial that I wanted to show on a Portuguese-language program once a week for a year'', Rosa says.

``That's 26 minutes a year.''


Copyright © 1997 by The Toronto Star. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.