Itty Bitty Pretty Beer

Itty Bitty Pretty Beer (with a kick!)

Imagine a little groovy perfume-size bottle of malt liquor.  Flavored and with groovy names like Hot Melons, Spicy Mango, Spicy Lime, and Hot Chocolate.  Nicely packaged and easy enough to slip in one's pocket or handbag.  Cool flavors plus caffeine.  With a youth-oriented website offering all sorts of seemingly youth-oriented networking and the sort of bopper social networking one might expect from a major ad agency seeking to reach, er, tantalize "that elusive youth market."

Imagine some kid hiding one of those little bottles in a fanny pack, a pocket or a clutch.  And then "flavoring" some other libation with it ... thus either increasing or adding in a level of alcohol content.  Now imagine that kid behind the wheel.  Or maybe wait until the kid and his or her friends all add some of this flavor enhancer and alcohol spike to a bunch of libations.  And then doing something like getting behind the wheel, or making decisions that call for a clear head.

We know that adolescents already feel invulnerable, impervious, and invincible.  Add a little alcohol/caffeine zing and they'll feel like like superheroes, capable of any feat or action.  "That'll never happen to me," or "to us," is a popular teen refrain.  We've all heard it.  We were all once hormone-raging teenagers; we've felt it.

Anheuser-Busch is the company behind this new concoction.  It seems somehow a cross between a wine cooler and a alcohol version of the popular energy drinks that have swept their way into a marketing force.  A force mostly among imbibers under from teen to age of 34 (29, maybe?).  They named it, ever so appropriately, Spykes, as in a cool hip with-it misspelling (some might say stylish respelling) of the word spike.  This is not spike as in Spike TV, the cable channel geared to men, this is more like spike as in spike one's drink.  The all-caps slug line on the website is, "SPYKE UP YOUR NIGHT!"

In a protective move no doubt encouraged by the crack legal staff, the site  proclaims that it is for adults only, and one must enter a birthdate in order to be allowed to enter.  Yeah, that's a whole lot of protection. Sure, that'll keep underaged surfers from clicking in.  Uh huh, right.

SPYKES, Anheiser-Busch product making it easy for underage drinkers to hide their stash of flavorful alcohol<br />

So any date of birth making the surfer appear to be over 21 gets them in.  Then a very loud and colorful site extols the virtues and wonders of these little drink additives, teeny weeny 12% alcohol malt liquor flavoring agents (or a quick shot in if one so chooses) so small they fit in a a pocket, or maybe in teh glove compartment of your kid's ride.  And how handy, these easily transported bottles can deliver a flavorful caffeinated jolt and spruce up some boring drink, or just serve as a quick little shot.  Gee, isn't this just what you want young 'uns getting their hands on??!!??!!

Drink it, mix it, get a jolt ... FEH!<br />

Of course this has certain groups up in arms.  Judi Vining, coordinator
of the Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking in Long Beach, N.Y. puts it bluntly: ìItís the perfect drink for a child.î  She adds, ìProm season and graduation season are coming up.  Itís scary. We donít
want to see people die.î  Vining also spoke of how easily concealed the product can be, given the small packaging.

It seems that Spykes has been around since 2005, and is only marketed via the web.  There are a few other products either reminiscent of Spykes (remember alco-pops?!), or competing in the same space.  Anheuser Busch is looking to use the power of the web to gain viral dissemination of the brand.  Hmm, would that indicate that it is an adult product?  Is it targeted at college students, or young adults?  Just take a look at the site and judge for yourself.  That is, after you enter your honest over-21 age in the entryway, so as to keep youngsters from ever possibly getting into the site.

Other groups around the country are gearing up protests to Anheuser
Busch.  This so clearly is a way to introduce drinking and alcohol
consumption to an underage audience, it horrifies all sorts of groups. 
In an article entitled "A Booze Buzz For Teenyboppers," MSNBC quotes various anti-drinking and youth watchdog groups.  Then comes the response from Anheuser Busch, quoted here from the MSNBC article,in which a spokesperson for Anheuser Busch defends the marketing tactic and the viral effort:

ìWe know consumers like to discover new things and be the first to
share this news with their friends, so we are building interest for
Spykes mainly through word-of-mouth,î wrote Suzanne Sierra,
communications director of Anheuser Bush Consumer Awareness &
Education. ìThis is by design to help spread the news for this brand.î

There was much ado on the web this week over comments made by, at, and about a woman named Kathy Siera.  The Anheuser Busch spokeperson quoted above is Suzanne Sierra.  If anyone deserves a firestorm over what she's saying and doing, it seems more appropriate to target Sierra over Siera,and let her and her employer know how evil their plan to introduce and enable youngsters to abuse alcohol seems to regular people, parents of teens, and to drivers everywhere.