America's teenagers saw significantly more beer and distilled spirits advertising in magazines between 2001 and 2003 than legal-age adults, as measured on a per capita basis, according to a study released today by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at Georgetown University.
CAMY's study analyzed 10,455 magazine alcohol ads costing almost $1 billion between 2001 and 2003, and found that 56 percent of the ad spending was placed in magazines with a disproportionate readership of underage youth, ages 12 to 20.
The Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) revamped their marketing codes in October 2003 and called on their members not to place ads where the underage audience is 30 percent or greater. CAMY's study found some progress toward the 30 percent threshold in 2003.
“The new threshold represents a step forward, but, as our study shows, it still does not offer adequate public health protection for our children,” said Jim O'Hara, CAMY executive director. “A 30 percent threshold allows double exposure. It permits the placement of ads in magazines with a disproportionate share of underage youth readers since they only make up roughly 15 percent of the population. There is still too much alcohol advertising reaching a population for whom the product is illegal.”
In reviewing the placement of the 10,455 ads using an advertising-industry standard measure of gross rating points, CAMY found:
Impact of Advertising Policies:
In September 2003, the trade associations for the beer and distilled spirits industries announced that their members would no longer place ads in publications with youth audiences of greater than 30 percent. CAMY's report shows that the alcohol industry began moving closer to this threshold before it was even announced. Both spending and number of alcohol ads in magazines with over 30 percent youth in their audiences had begun to decrease by 2003.
However, the industry is still far from reaching the more proportionate 15 percent youth audience threshold proposed by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report presented to Congress that same month: 56 percent of the spending on the alcohol advertisements from 2001 through 2003 studied for this report, as well as almost 50 percent of the ads, went to magazines that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely to read on a per capita basis than adults 21 and above.
“The average teen drinker begins to drink alcohol at age 13. If alcohol advertisers had followed a youth audience standard that more closely represents the youth at risk, they would have reduced underage youth exposure to their advertising substantially in 2003,” said David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY research director. “It's hard to argue with a change that would help alcohol companies better reach their legal-age audience and also do so much good for our kids.”
About the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America's youth. The Center is supported by grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.