Beer ads criticized by target customers Blacks troubled trying to swallow PowerMaster ads.


Many blacks are having trouble swallowing the marketing concept of PowerMaster, the new high-alcohol malt liquor that's targeting minorities.

Taking a few minutes from his stroll through Mondawmin Mall yesterday afternoon, Al Watson, 48, said: "I think it's wrong. We have enough problems as it is now."

The General Motors worker continued, "I think they're taking advantage of blacks. If you're going to market, then market it whole, not just for blacks."

PowerMaster is made by G. Heileman Brewing Co. of Wisconsin, at its plant in Halethorpe that also makes Colt 45. The new malt liquor is scheduled for promotion in July.

Billboards ads for the alcoholic beverage feature a black man and the slogan: "Bold, not harsh."

Some Baltimore liquor stores already have stocked the malt liquor. A six-pack sells for $4.89.

PowerMaster contains 5.9 percent alcohol by weight, compared with 4.5 percent for Colt 45 and other malt liquors. Regular beer has about 4 percent alcohol.

Watson and other blacks said beer, liquor and tobacco companies and state lottery officials target blacks unfairly -- almost exploiting them -- knowing they suffer from a disproportionate number of health and financial hardships when they consume these products.

Meanwhile, they said, these companies don't offer any financial opportunities in their communities, other than paying black celebrities who pose in their ads.

"These kind of alcohol and other self-destructive chemical warfare on blacks is wrong," said Michael X,27, a minister of the Nation of Islam. "I think we need to come together as a community to do something."

A national boycott is being planned in at least six U.S. cities.

Last year, protests forced R.J. Reynolds to pull its Uptown cigarettes, which were aimed at black smokers.

Yesterday at the northwest Baltimore mall, Frances Wright, 57, a data service clerk, suggested legislation be passed to deter future marketing that's unfair to blacks.

Meanwhile, Dan Zaccagnini, sales manager of the Best Way Distributing Co. in Highlandtown, which distributes Heileman products, questioned why PowerMaster is being singled out. He speculated that the publicity could spur sales.

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