Are Million Dollar ‘Date Rape’ and Other PLCB Ad Campaigns a Conflict of Interest?

PLCB yanked this ad after "hundreds" of complaints.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is ending another week without pants. After several online media outlets caught onto its bizarre ad campaign featuring an image of a raped woman’s legs (and the context that surrounded it), the government liquor bureau pulled part of the online ad and spent more hours than their communications people would probably care to admit cleaning up the mess.

But there’s another issue at play here. The ad, in one sense, was intended to get patrons to buy less alcohol. Meanwhile, the PLCB is in the business of selling more alcohol—really, as much as possible—and making the state some cash by doing so. In fact, as privatization fears linger, the PLCB continually touts the huge revenues it brings the state. So, is something wrong here? Harrisburg-based Libertarian think tank The Commonwealth Foundation seems to think so.

“This is an absolute conflict of mission interest,” says Jay Ostrich, director of public affairs at the Commonwealth Foundation. “On one side of the market, the PLCB is starting the fires by spending millions of taxpayer dollars yearly, by promoting alcohol and persuading Pennsylvanians to buy alcohol…On the other end of the market, they’re spending taxpayer dollars on this campaign, which is telling consumers that alcohol is very dangerous. So they’re trying to put out a fire that they, at the time, have started.”

If this were a private business, he says, it’d be no big deal. The problem is that the PLCB is a government agency playing both ends of the market and using taxpayer dollars to do so.

Stacey Witalec, spokesperson for the PLCB, disagrees. “We don’t see it as a conflict,” she says. “We see it as fulfilling our mission. When the agency was structured, we were charged with fulfilling a mission of providing access to products through our stores, licensing stores across the Commonwealth, and educating Pennsylvanians about responsible consumption…So, we see that as fulfilling our mission to our shareholders, which are the citizens of Pennsylvania.”

finewineThe state agency regularly spends millions of dollars on liquor advertisements across Pennsylvania, including billboards and radio ads, one of which, the May 2010 “Mother’s Kiss” ad, caused a stir when it promoted flavored vodka cocktail ideas to spruce up an otherwise boring Mother’s Day.

According to Ostrich, the campaign the PLCB has put together with the Nieman Group cost the PLCB about $650,000. They’re signed on for one more year, which will pay out $350,000. The PLCB confirmed this.

In total, the Foundation’s research has found, the PLCB spends about $10 million per year on advertising. Witalec says the marketing money is separate from the PLCB’s “alcohol education” funds, which the LCB is allocated a certain amount to fulfill their education mission with the state. “It’s been a number of years since alcohol education has spent any money on advertising,” she says. “This is not an annual spend for advertising.”

5 Responses to “ Are Million Dollar ‘Date Rape’ and Other PLCB Ad Campaigns a Conflict of Interest? ”

  1. FRANK says:

    Sell the liquor stores, Pa should not be in the liquor business.

  2. dress2sale says:

    Good post for me .

  3. Try to remember each time you buy a fair trade item you help assist families as well as causes all over the world.

  4. Sharon says:

    Support the petition if you care about this issue:

    —————-
    End PA liquor control and privatize once and for all

    We have an opportunity to move Pennsylvania into the 21st century by allowing the private sector to sell wine and spirits. This approach will result in better selection, cheaper prices and more convenience for consumers.
    —————-

    Copy and follow link below:

    https://www.change.org/petitions/house-of-representatives-harrisburg-pa-end-pa-liquor-control-and-privatize-once-and-for-all

  5. [...] Crass advertising campaigns. Last fall the PLCB debuted a shocking and distasteful ad campaign that implied rape victims that drank too much were to blame for their rape. The ads were quickly pulled after a national outcry, but taxpayers still footed the bill for the $650,000 campaign. [...]

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