As our troops experience the hottest ground fighting since Vietnam, several of our brewers have halted their TV advertising. “We felt that was the decision that was best for all of us at Miller, as citizens and business-people, and for the majority of our consumers,” Miller spokesman Mike Hennick told Beer Business Daily. “We will reassess the situation on an ongoing basis.”

Coors also pulled its ads and will “re-evaluate” its stance on Monday. It isn’t clear whether A-B has pulled its ads. A-B certainly ran ads during the Academy Awards Sunday night although they probably shouldn’t have….. TiVo reported that TV viewership dropped off dramatically during commercial breaks, probably because people checked the news channels for updates on Iraq.

WILL WAR AFFECT BEER SALES? Certainly military-channel sales in the US will suffer as 250k beer drinking troops are now fighting to liberate Iraq, although general market off-premise sales will be largely unaffected, according to sources. Expect on-premise to be soft, though as CNN/Fox News Channel effect takes hold of consumers’ important evening hours. Brewers are also slightly worried about overseas sales as a boycott of US goods in Germany and France is taking hold. Already bars in France are tossing out A-B brands, according to Reuters.

GULF WAR. During the last Gulf War, sales suffered dramatically but not due to the war.. It was the 1991 doubling of the federal excise tax that cut down beer sales. Fewer troops were deployed back then and beer sales were unaffected.

GARFIELD GOES AFTER MILLER. “Word has it that Miller Brewing Co. wholesalers were delighted with the 2003 advertising they were shown at their recent convention. Hmm. Maybe they were drunk.” So starts the critique of Miller’s new ads by influential Ad Age critic Bob Garfield, who has never held a candle for Miller’s ads.

TERRIBLE. “Because, with the exception of the Miller High Life work from Wieden & Kennedy, which is wonderful as always, the commercials the wholesalers saw are terrible,” he writes in Monday editions. Garfield goes on to say that Miller has mistaken “boobvertising for a strategy” and that the boxing ad with the severed head will be pulled shortly “because it will make small children cry.” He points out that the ads have so far produced “no measurable improvement in sales of Miller Lite,” although he fails to mention that all brands are suffering in Q1.

TARGET AUDIENCE. Garfield seems to forget the target audience for premium domestic beer ads: young adult males, of which he can’t include himself. Remember the movie “Something About Mary,” when Cameron Diaz uses something as hair gel? The movie was a smash hit because that one disgusting scene generated buzz for months among young people. Juvenile humor, while immature and sometimes offensive to grandpas like Garfield, works in the beer business.

Short sighted, you say? Perhaps, but if you can string enough short term gains together, wa-la!, you get long term gains. Garfield probably sips wine on his porch in late evenings with friends and talks about the New York Times Review of of course he hates the ads. Nobody ever got rich overestimating the average beer drinker.

Having said that, I am A BIT worried that there could be a government-neoprohibitionist-judicial-consumer backlash to the ads which could bring harm to the entire industry. That is something we all need to watch closely in the months ahead.