Center Finds Youth Alcohol Responsibility Ads Lacking

As a Congressional subcommittee on telecommunications and the Internet turns up the heat on marketing of junk food and cigarettes to kids and marketers insist on policing themselves, a new study from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), based at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., suggests that self-monitoring -- at least when it comes to alcoholic beverages -- doesn't work.

The group asserts that messages about "responsibility" comprised less than 3% of the nearly 1.5 million alcohol industry television advertisements that aired from 2001 to 2005.

The study, aptly titled "Drowned Out: Alcohol Industry Responsibility Advertising on Television 2001-2005," also found that of the $4.9 billion spent to advertise alcohol on the tube during the study period, $104 million or about 2% was spent to air 41,333 "responsibility" advertisements meant to warn of the dangers of under-age drinking.

Also, per the study, underage youth were 239 times more likely to see an advertisement selling alcohol than one of the industry's "responsibility" advertisements, and kids were 32 times more likely to see an ad touting booze than ads warning against using it, or driving and drinking.



"The primary messages kids get about alcohol on television are from alcohol product ads that, not surprisingly, promote their use and enjoyment," says David Jernigan, CAMY executive director. "To look just to the industry for messages on responsibility is clearly not smart public policy."

Other findings included that only 8 of 109 alcohol companies that bought TV ads during the five-year period ran "responsibility" ads on TV. However, in 2005, more alcohol brands aired such ads than in any prior year. That year, per the study, of the 174 brands that advertised on TV, 19 brands sponsored "responsibility" ads, forking out $28 million to do so.

Of the eight companies who ran warning and responsibility ads during the whole period, Diageo spent $66 million, 18% of its ad dollars, over the five-year period. Anheuser-Busch spent the second most, $20 million, about 1% of A-B's budget, per the group.

CAMY notes that last year Congress passed the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (STOP Act) that -- if Congress agrees to fund it - would free up $1 million for a national campaign on underage drinking. It also requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to report annually to Congress on underage drinking, including the rate of exposure of youth to advertising and other media messages encouraging and discouraging alcohol use.

"Our findings clearly show that the alcohol industry's efforts to fight underage drinking through television advertising are never going to match its product advertising," says Jernigan in a release. "We need a substantial national commitment if we expect our children to get a balanced message from television."

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