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Free Beer Not as Good as It Sounds--Unless You're Pregnant

Kirin's Free ad

Kirin's Free beer (as opposed to free beer: that would obviously bankrupt the company PDQ) is a non-alcoholic lager with an interesting marketing campaign attached. Launched last month, the TV spot is filled with young, expectant mothers hanging out in a playground and drinking cans of the amber nectar. The ad was spotted last month by Lisa Katayama, who writes the TokyoMango blog, and she posted the video for all to see.

Said vid, however, has been pulled from YouTube by Kirin (second thoughts about the campaign? Fetal Alcohol Syndrome wobbles?), and the Japanese brewing firm has today launched a campaign that, while slightly different, still mines what they think could be a lucrative market for it's alcohol-free products: new mothers. According to the AP, any woman who's just dropped a sprog at one of Japan's maternity hospitals will be issued with a single can of Kirin Free.

Kirin's Free adThe beer, aimed at drivers and the recently knocked-up, launched last year, and sold 4 million cases in its first eight months—far surpassing Kirin's original target of 630,000. However, it's some way behind the Brazilian brand Nova Schinn, whose 2006 advertising campaign eschewed subtlety in favor of out there-ness. It's hard to say whether it was aimed at the partners of pregnant women (verily, I say unto thee, Joao, should you partake of the refreshing Nova Schinn, this is what your other half will look like. No, really.) or at the women themselves.

Marketing alcohol-free beer to pregnant women should, on the face of it, be a straightforward exercise. It's non-alcoholic, ergo it's alrighty. Even zero percent alcohol, however, contains traces of the stuff. And, whether you incur the wrath of your fellow citizen who think that even one drop of the hard stuff will render unto your unborn child Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, is pretty much dependent on where you live. In the U.K. and the U.S., drinking even a glass of the stuff can be frowned on—there have even been cases of pregnant women being chided for drinking coffee in the morning.

The rest of Europe, however, is a little more laid-back about it. In Spain, many gynecologists advocate the odd glass of wine a week—some even suggest that it is better for a smoker to enjoy the occasional cigarette when pregnant, rather than risk the trauma of giving up. (Back in the '60s, mothers worldwide were advised by their doctors to smoke occasionally and ensure an easier birth—smaller baby, see?) To digress slightly, the idea of steering clear of food like prawns, unpasteurized cheese and the wonderful jamon serrano would probably incite street riots in Madrid within 24 hours. And, of course, the Irish know that Guinness is good for you.

Kirin's marketing campaign is based on the idea that a cold beer, post-partum, can de-stress even the most sleep-deprived, unshowered-for-three-days, semi-functioning new mother. Whether, however, the more puritanical members of society could get their heads around the idea of seeing pregnant women, or those still breast-feeding, chugging down a beer, remains to be seen.