Company Behind 'Four Loko' Engages PR Giant, Still Can't Get Its Talking Points Straight

We all know what companies do in a crisis--they get an outside PR firm to help manage the situation. So it was no surprise to us at the Weekly when an email came in yesterday from the biggest independent PR firm in the world, New York-based Edelman.

They were contacting us on behalf of Phusion Projects, makers of the candy-colored, little-girl-flavored, booze-and-caffeine bomb called Four Loko. If ever there were a company in crisis, it's this one, seeing as how their product was blamed for helping send numerous Central Washington University students to the hospital this weekend, the Washington AG has called for a ban, and even the New York Times stepped in today with a piece about the brand's dangerous reputation.

Grolsch is also a favorite, apparently.
What did surprise us, however, was the ineptitude of Phusion's damage-control efforts, which left us wondering if a) they have sucked down a few too many cans of their product, and/or b) they think the rest of us have.

We first heard from Edelman yesterday afternoon, in response to Caleb's post about the Four Loko incident in Roslyn.

The flack took issue with Caleb's statement that Four Loko "has the alcoholic equivalent of five or six caffeinated beers." (No objection was made to his describing the drink as tasting like "Thor's piss.") Said Edelman:

This statement is not correct...Please remove this error from the online version of your story and please use the correct information from the materials we provided.

We looked at the materials provided, which said a can of Four Loko is 12 percent alcohol by volume. Well, that's almost three times the abv of a can of PBR. And a can of Four Loko, at 23 ounces, is roughly twice the size. So that works out to five or six beers' worth of alcohol per can.

But hey, we're always open to a second check of our math. OK, we replied, How many beers would you say a can of Four Loko is equal to?

It depends on the beer--domestics or the high-end crafts or imports.

How about an "average beer"?

What's an average beer? A Bud or a craft /Euro beer with considerably higher alcohol content by volume?

Given that your typical Phusion Projects customer isn't likely to be choosing between Four Loko and a Grolsch, this response seemed evasive to the point of silliness.

Indeed, the Edelman representative insisted that wine was the better analogy, as if the Four Loko customer might opt for a light Pinot instead.

A can of Four Loko is equal to about 2 glasses of wine.

But even that's complete horseshit. Yes, Four Loko has about the same alcohol by volume as your average wine. But your typical serving of wine is about 5 ounces. Which means there's actually close to five glasses of wine in a can of Four Loko.

At posting time we were still awaiting a response from Edelman. And still marveling that a company whose product is known for reducing customers to hurling idiots also can't get its own basic talking points straight.

UPDATE: The Washington Attorney General's office contacted us to say they had enlisted researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Virginia to examine this issue, and the conclusion was as follows: A can of Four Loko is equal to 5.64 standard drinks. You can't argue with science!

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