ALBANY, N.Y. -- Would Madame care for some wine with her curly fries?
The wine industry begins testing an advertising campaign this week here and in Austin, Texas, aimed at deflating its stuffy, special-occasion-only image. A series of radio and television spots will playfully claim that wine is fine any time, be it while watching TV or eating a no-frills dinner.
The media campaign's tag line: "Wine. What are you saving it for?"
"The perception of wine as a formal, special occasion beverage keeps a lot of people from enjoying it in casual and relaxed settings," said John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council. The California-based industry group is bankrolling the $1.3 million test campaign.
Wine consumption in the United States has grown in recent years, but slowly. The council noted that recent gains have come mostly from what they call "core wine drinkers" -- a group consisting primarily of people over 40 who consume about 88 percent of the wine sold in America.
Targets of the new campaign are younger, infrequent wine drinkers. The lure is humor, as in one commercial that announces: "You're actually home watching TV? This is a special occasion."
While no one expects burly blue-collar guys to soon be shouting "It's merlot time!" after their shifts, the campaign created by Bozell Worldwide is intended to at least adjust consumer attitudes about wine. (Bozell is the advertising agency that has done the "Got Milk" and "Pork: The Other White Meat" campaigns.)
Greg Prince, executive editor of Beverage World Magazine, said that while wine sales are inching up, they're not keeping up with the burgeoning soft drink and bottled water market.
Anything the industry could do to generate everyday wine consumption would help it, he said, "as long as it doesn't diminish its specialness."
Albany and Austin were chosen for the pilot campaign because they are typical mid-sized media markets with a good number of infrequent wine drinkers aged 25 to 49, said Bozell's Angie Fegeras.