Put it like this: If Spuds MacKenzie were a Democratic presidential candidate, he’d be out of the race by now. In recent months Bud Light’s party animal has been hounded by rumors that he’s a she (which he is; the bitch is really Evie Oles, 4, of North Riverside, Ill.) and that he was killed and replaced by a double. Spuds is still with us, but he may wish he were dead. He’s now being accused of promoting drinking for minors.
This latest wrangle popped up when Sandra Beebe, a Columbia, S.C., member of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), spotted stuffed Spuds dolls in a toy store. “They were advertising beer in a toy store,” claims Beebe, 47. “The dolls are subtly saying that drinking is great, and why don’t we all do it?” Others also began questioning Spuds’s subliminal message. In Beach Park, Ill., Spuds T-shirts were banned from the local high school. The brewhaha reached a high point when the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse directors called for an end to the Spuds campaign.
Anheuser-Busch puts the blame on merchandising pirates who are manufacturing Spuds shirts in children’s sizes and putting Spuds dolls in toy stores. Licensed Spuds products, says executive vice-president Michael Roarty, “are not intended to be marketed to people under the legal age to consume beer.”
William McCord, executive director of South Carolina’s Commission on Alcohol Abuse, calls Roarty’s argument a “bunch of bull.” The Spuds doll, says McCord, 55, is “overtly geared to people under the drinking age. I can’t believe Anheuser-Busch has the audacity to say these aren’t for children. It’s insulting to the intelligence of the American people.”
The intelligence of Rick Anguilla, editor of Toy & Hobby World magazine, isn’t insulted. Anguilla, 29, contends that, like comic books these days, Spuds products appeal more to adults than to children. “The Spuds-dolls demographics skew a lot higher, to women in college and up into their 40’s,” he says. Even if kids do buy the products, Anguilla adds, “they might know Spuds is advertising a beer, but it’s not something that will stay in an 8-year-old’s mind for 10 years.”