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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Marketers, Law Enforcement Fulfill SF Weekly Prediction; Energy Beer Declared Stupid

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2008 at 3:20 PM

click to enlarge Bud_Extra.jpg
By Matt Smith

California has joined 10 other states in compelling Anheuser Busch to stop selling caffeine-spiked beer. University researchers had determined the beverage caused a nervous system syndrome called “wide awake drunk,” and was therefore a public menace, according to a press release from California AG Jerry Brown.

The watchdogs might have saved steps by looking up a 2000 SF Weekly satire column, which facetiously predicted the introduction of an “energy beer” that would be viewed as a public menace, and run into trouble with the law.

Back during the dot-com boom days SF Weekly ran a regular feature called “South to the Future,” which played off what was then a SoMa-Silicon Valley fascination with techno-futurism. Writers Becky Bond and Jose Marquez concocted made-up news stories about improbable, absurd, yet somehow believable technological advances such as biotech-bred oranges containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. On Feb., 9 Bond and Marquez announced a Marin County brewer had come up with a new type of beverage after watching bar patrons order beer with an “espresso back.”

“Right then and there I knew I would be the first to bring to market the future of beer: an energy beer," Bond and Marquez quoted their fictional brewer as saying.

The authors predicted a crackdown from law enforcement, based on laws that prohibit alcoholic beverages from being labeled as performance enhancing. The fictional article also described a lawsuit alleging that the beverage inappropriately targeted ethnic youth.

Eight years later, the Bond and Marquez column reads like current news.

Five years after the column ran Anheuser Busch introduced Bud Extra, creating a new beverage category of caffeinated alcohol. Marketing taglines included “You can sleep when you’re 30” and “Say hello to a night of fun.”

In Nov. 2007, researchers at Wake Forest University of Medicine looked into the matter, and discovered “the combination of caffeine and alcohol send mixed signals to the nervous system,” making drinkers feel drunk and wide awake.

And in 2008, attorneys general from Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, New York and Ohio and California asserted that the drinks made “misleading health related statements about the energizing effects of its caffienated alcoholic beverages,” according to Brown’s press release. The officials compelled Anheuser Busch to discontinue the drink.

This isn’t the first time satirists mocked marketers by coming up with ridiculous products – only to see the absurdity hit shelves. In Feb, 2004, The Onion ran a feature titled “Fuck Everything, We’re doing Five Blades,” in which a razor executive rants about how he’ll top his competitor’s four-blader. And in Sept. 2005 Gillette introduced its new Fusion razor with five blades.

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Matt Smith

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