BOSTON — FOLLOWING in the footsteps of a successful campaign to keep Santa Claus out of beer ads, a citizens' coalition is now putting pressure on brewers to revamp their Halloween promotions.
The beer industry is targeting young people during the week before Halloween, even though brewers have pledged to discourage teen drinking, says a coalition of minority, religious, and anti-alcoholism groups led by the Washington-based Center on Alcohol Advertising.
''The beer industry should be ashamed of using a major children's holiday to market beer,'' says center director Laurie Leiber, kicking off a 35-city ''Hands Off Halloween'' campaign. ''Beermakers design and place their advertisements on television programs that guarantee them a large audience of teens. They're not discouraging underage drinking - they're exploiting children and enticing them to use a potentially lethal drug.''
According to Ms. Leiber, promotions for beer include everything from balloons and stickers carrying Halloween themes to last year's Fox/Coors Halloween Bash, a week-long string of beer ads run on the Fox Network during teen-friendly shows like ''Melrose Place,'' ''Beverly Hills 90210,'' and ''Martin.'' Leiber says she asked brewers to apply the same restrictions to Halloween that they apply to depicting Santa Claus.
Beermakers respond that they are abiding by their pledge and by the law. ''The brewers don't want illegal underage consumers, period,'' says a spokesman for the Beer Institute in Washington. ''As an industry, we do more than any other group to discourage the abuse of our product, particularly illegal underage drinking and drunk driving.''