A recent study performed by researchers at several universities including UCLA and Johns Hopkins has found a frightening new correlation between alcohol advertising and target demographics which could only be assumed to be young viewers… and thus potential underage drinkers.
By using advertising industry data from Nielsen Media Research, researchers examined more than 608,000 national cable alcohol ads aired between the years 2001 and 2006. These ads, fortunately, were aired primarily before audiences with fewer than 30 percent between the ages of 12 and 20. However, there were few of the funny coincidences, as noted by a story featured at the Fox News website:
- For every one-percentage-point increase in adolescent viewership, there was a corresponding 7% increase in beer ads, a 15% increase in spirits ads, and a 22% increase in “alcopop” ads
- In the instance of alcopops, ad incidence “was strongly associated with adolescent girl viewership”. Also, each one-point increase in the percentage of female adolescent audience was associated with increases in alcopop ads by as much as 5%.
Although wine is perhaps statistically the least-desirable alcoholic beverage which could be targeted at teens, it was one of the only beverages which did decrease with percentages that increased in adolescent viewership (for a grand total of 8% decrease for each one percentage point). Do such statistics actually indicate that younger audiences were targeted, or perhaps could it be that advertisements were being concentrated during time slots that hit broader demographics? In other words, could it be that in spite of the large numbers of younger viewers, corresponding larger numbers of viewers of legal drinking age also existed among the audiences during time slots that featured the rise in alcoholic advertisement?
This seems unlikely, especially in the case where alcopop commercials were aired during “The Simple Life,” a program which has been nominated for Teen Choice Awards four years in a row. Fox News analysts cite this as being proof that such ads “were placed there for no other reason than to prime teenager girls for underage drinking.”
If this is indeed the case, the alcohol industry’s pledges toward “social responsibility” may need as much reform as the current health care system in America. Therefore, it begs the question: how much reform could take place before control and regulation spills over into the realm of prohibition? Are folks in the alcohol industry really willing to allow this to happen as a result of careless placement of advertisements?