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Swisher Ain't Sweet

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Marlboro Mild

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HOME > PRESS > AMSTERDAM NEWS ARTICLE FEATURING NAAAPI

Coalition of clergy and community activists rally to eliminate marketing of harmful products to African-American youth
by TALISE D. MOORER
Special to the AmNews

Rocket scientists aren't needed to decipher why African-Americans are targeted as guinea pigs for testing products. Racism and the hunger for the almighty dollar are apparent motivational factors, critics say, and it’s done with no regard for age or health concerns. Manufacturers of alcohol and tobacco products are accused of having no shame in how they fatten their purse, nor respect of how products are marketed. And while some consumers have allowed themselves to be baited into contributory negligence – spending their money on habit-forming substances because of slick new ads promoting the latest vice – others, especially health conscience watchdogs, are taking steps to end a serious breach in “consumer-friendly” marketing.

The National Association of African-Americans for Positive Imagery (NAAAPI), a coalition of clergy and community activists, has sounded the alarm on the exposure of American youth to “alcopop” television advertising, a new marketing strategy combining the sweet taste of soda pop in a liquor-branded malt beverage.
According to Executive Director the Rev. Jesse Brown, pastor in the southeast Pennsylvania senate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the organization's concern evolves from the alcohol industry's well-documented history of targeting specific groups with particular products, for example, the marketing of Phat Boy, PowerMaster and Crazy Horse malt beverages to African-Americans. When PowerMaster was introduced in Chicago in 1991 (a time when African Americans represented about 40 percent of the city's population), clergymen in the area confronted the industry head-on. Letters were written to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) raising objections to the wording used by the brewery to promote the product. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) took up the charge and PowerMaster was subsequently removed from the market.

The organization also says that a spot for Smirnoff Ice, depicting young African-Americans enjoying hip-hop culture, was particularly egregious. With television ads, and through billboards, liquor stores, magazines and extreme amounts of signage in store windows, the organization says youth of all races and ethnicities are bombarded.

''We are in the strategic planning phase of national efforts to stop companies from putting these kinds of products out all together, with some success,'' said Brown in an interview with the AmNews. ''We are not Johnny-come-latelies to this issue, and have worked hard to forge change,'' he added. After learning that NBC had signed a multimillion dollar advertising contract with Guinness UDV, reversing a ''50-year-old self-imposed ban to carry hard liquor ads,'' in January 2002, members of the NAAAPI formed a campaign to stop liquor ads on NBC.

They met with NBC affiliates and community organizations, and held rallies at affiliations in Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to emphasize their concern. They later learned that NBC rescinded its decision to air them. ''We are pleased that NBC will no longer air hard liquor ads. We are glad they have chosen to be part of the health solution in American instead of a contributor to the health problems in America,'' Brown said in a press statement earlier this year.

The NAAAPI, founded in 1991, is a nonprofit educational organization headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa. Besides its goal of eliminating the marketing of tobacco, alcohol and other harmful products in communities of color nationwide, the organization offers technical assistance to groups in support of media and advertising images of African-Americans that are positive. Supporters include the Rev. B. T. Rice in St. Louis, the Rev. Hessie Harris in Massachusetts and many others across denominational lines.
Brown says NAAAPI is committed to get the word out all across the country. Anyone interested in joining their efforts is invited to contact the national office at (215) 235-6488.



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National Association of African Americans for Positive Imagery
1231 N Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19122 P: 215-235-6488 F: 215-235-6491 E: info@naaapi.org