Television network NBC will become the first big broadcaster to air advertisements for hard liquor in about 50 years with a spot for Smirnoff vodka this weekend, the network and British spirits firm Diageo said Friday.
Diageo, whose brands include Smirnoff vodka, Tanqueray gin, Johnnie Walker whiskeys and Guinness, said the first ad will run on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
NBC's rivals--Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, Viacom Inc.'s CBS and UPN and News Corp.'s Fox--said they have no plans to change their policies and accept hard liquor advertising. However, a representative of CBS said the network is "constantly reviewing our policies."
Commercials for hard liquor typically have not run on television networks for fear of allegations that they encourage children to drink, even though beer commercials have been on the air for years.
A Diageo representative said the company is pleased the "artificial barrier" to hard liquor advertising has been lifted.
"We now have the opportunity to gain efficiencies in our advertising and marketing programs by removing this artificial barrier that has denied us access to network television," Gary Golanis of Diageo said.
As part of the deal, which comes amid a chronic advertising slump, Diageo said it has been working with NBC for the last couple of months to create guidelines that will ensure hard liquor advertising is portrayed in a responsible manner.
NBC, a unit of global giant General Electric Co., will run liquor ads during the prime-time hours of 9 to 11 p.m., as well as during late-night shows "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," Golanis said.
In addition, the network will ask advertisers to agree to at least four months of promotional spots that focus on socially responsible messages before general product promotion messages air, NBC said.