Should Advertisement Promote Positive Images of Alcohol?

March 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Health

Marketing and advertising is a crucial part of the alcohol supply chain given that sales of alcoholic beverages have been fairly flat or declining for the past two decades. This is seen from the 1.57 billion dollars spent in America on traditional media (television, radio, print and outdoor advertising) in 2001, which rose to two billion in 2005. Therefore it is clear that promotion of positive images of alcohol is needed to some extent to support the industry and the jobs and livelihoods of those working within it. However young people are often the main target audience for such advertisement, with significant evidence suggesting that there is a strong link between such targeting and increases in underage and teen drinking. Therefore it seems whilst it is greatly important to the industry to promote such positive images of alcohol, caution must be exercised when targeting younger audiences.

There is a wealth of evidence that points towards links between exposure to advertising that promoted positive images of alcohol and underage drinking. A study in 2006 concluded that each additional advert seen by an underage individual caused a one percent rise in their drinking and each additional dollar spent per capita on advertising caused youths to drink three percent more. Not only were there links to increases in general underage drinking but advertising made binge drinking more likely. In a group of 2250 middle school students in Los Angeles, those who were more exposed to traditional forms of Should Advertisement Promote Positive Images of Alcoholmedia that promoted alcohol were more likely to drink three or more drinks on one occasion. Promotion of positive images of alcohol glamorizes it and portrays it as enhancing attractiveness to the opposite sex and social popularity, qualities which are particularly valued by the younger population and those under the legal drinking age. Therefore, it seems promotion of alcohol has direct correlation to underage drinking, which is bad in itself, and underage binge drinking which can be seen as much worse given its links to alcoholism in later life.

Although such positive adverts do frequently feature ‘Drink Responsibly’ slogans, these slogans are often placed away from the focus of the viewer and hence are easily go unnoticed. Furthermore, phrases like ‘Drink Responsibly’ are ambiguous and subjective, as what is deemed to be responsible drinking will vary between individuals whilst especially amongst younger audiences, other values such as ‘fitting in’ may seem more important than responsible drinking. Such adverts that promote these positive images of alcohol also completely fail to notify the viewer of the significant negative effects alcohol poses, such as alcoholism and various threats to both mental and physical health. Therefore the nature of the targeting of the younger bracket of legal drinkers affects and has an impact on those approaching, but still under, the legal drinking age. Furthermore, alcohol companies seem to be misinforming people about alcohol by failing to give the full picture to the consumer. In this sense, promotion of positive images of alcohol is clearly having a negative impact.

Whilst it is important to recognize that the alcohol industry and its dependents need to some way to promote its consumption to survive in a competitive world, promotion as it is currently is having a negative impact through underage drinking and failing to give consumers the full picture. Giving alcohol a positive image is permissible but the targeting of younger audiences is where the issue lies. Therefore perhaps advertising should promote positive images of alcohol amongst older audiences who have spent years around alcohol and so will be better informed. In this way positive images of alcohol, not necessarily should, but may be promoted but only if such promotion is aimed at those who are not near the threshold of the legal drinking age.

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