Television, Alcohol Ads and Youth in 2003

  • July 01, 2005

Television alcohol advertising in 2003 resulted in alcoholic beverage advertising substantially exposing young people to their products.

Television is the primary medium for advertisers, and this also holds true for the advertisers of most leading alcoholic beverages. As shown in the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth's October 2004 report, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003: More of the Same, television alcohol advertising in 2003 resulted in alcoholic beverage advertising not only reaching legal-age drinkers, but also substantially exposing young people to their products, sometimes to an even greater extent per capita than adults.

Nearly all youth watch television frequently:

• Ninety-seven percent of teens aged 12 to 19 said in the spring of 2004 that they had watched television in the last week, reporting an average of 10.45 hours in front of the television that week. More teens reported watching television than doing any other activity, and it took up more of their time than any of the other activities listed, including listening to music, hanging out with friends, and talking on the phone.1 

• More teens say they own television sets than backpacks, wristwatches or bicycles.2 

Alcohol advertising on television—and youth exposure to it—grew dramatically between 2001 and 2003:

• Teens aged 12 to 19 ranked ads for Budweiser and Bud Light as number one when asked to choose their favorite television commercial in a spring 2004 study. Among the other brands ranked behind Budweiser in popularity in teens' top 10 were GEICO, Pepsi, M&Ms and Nike ads. Ads for Miller Lite were eighth on their top ten list, and were favorites for more teens than ads for NFL, Blockbuster, Mountain Dew or McDonalds.3 

• Nearly 90,000 more advertisements for alcohol appeared on television in 2003 than just two years earlier. The number of alcohol ads aired on television increased each year between 2001 and 2003.4

• The number of ads that underage youth, ages 12 to 20, were more likely per capita to see than legal-aged adults increased each year as well, from 51,084 in 2001 to 66,218 in 2002 to 69,054 in 2003.5,6 

• In 2001, 2002, and 2003, almost a quarter of alcohol ads that aired on television were more likely to be seen by underage youth per capita than by legal-age adults.7

• The average underage person saw two beer ads on television for every three seen by the average adult in 2003.8 Three “alcopop”9 ads were seen by the average underage person for every four seen by the average adult.10

• Driving the increases in alcohol advertising on television from 2001 to 2003 was the explosion of ads for distilled spirits on national cable networks—from 513 in 2001 to 33,126 in 2003. Spending on distilled spirits advertising on television increased by 148% between 2002 and 2003.11

Teens' favorite television programs had alcohol advertising in 2003:

• All 15 of the television shows most popular with teens aged 12 to 17 had alcohol ads in 2003. The same was true in 2002, and 13 of the 15 shows most popular with teens had alcohol ads in 2001.12 

• Throughout 2003, alcohol companies placed 2,608 ads on the top 15 teen shows, which included shows such as Fear Factor, Friends, Smallville and According to Jim at a total cost of more than $30 million.13

The industry's voluntary guidelines are inadequate:

• Alcohol industry self-regulation is the primary means of regulating alcohol advertising's exposure of youth. The current alcohol industry standard, announced in September 2003, sets the maximum permissible youth audience composition for alcohol advertising at 30%. Because youth ages 12 to 20 are only 13.3% of the national television viewing audience, a threshold of 30% allows alcohol ads to be placed on programs where there are more than twice as many youth as in the viewing population.14

• In 2001, 2002, and 2003, around 12% of the alcohol ads aired each year appeared on programs with an underage audience of 30% or more.15

• Beer and distilled spirits industry groups announced in September 2003 that they would codify a 30% underage threshold for their members' advertising. Yet a CAMY analysis shows that this change will require a major shift in course. In fact, a preliminary review of 137,034 alcohol ads placed on television from January 2004 through June 2004 showed that 11.6%—consistent with the proportions in 2001, 2002, and 2003—were placed on programming where the underage audience was greater than 30%.16

• In 2003, the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine recommended that alcohol companies move toward a 15% threshold. This threshold would leave 79% of television programming still accessible to alcohol advertising while significantly reducing youth exposure to it. More than 22% of alcohol ads—67,725 ads, costing more than $117 million—exceeded this 15% threshold in 2003.17

1 Teenage Research Unlimited, Spring 2004, Wave 43, 121-4.

2 Teenage Research Unlimited, Spring 2004, Wave 43, 205.

3 Teenage Research Unlimited, Spring 2004, Wave 43, 80-86.

4 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003: More of the Same (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2004),  4.

5 "More likely to see" (as well as percentage measures of youth overexposure and other comparisons of adult and youth exposure to alcohol advertising in this fact sheet) is based on "gross rating points," which measure how much an audience segment is exposed to advertising per capita. Another way of measuring advertising exposure is "gross impressions" (the total number of times all the members of a given audience are exposed to advertising). The adult population will almost always receive far more "gross impressions" than youth, because there are far more adults in the population than youth.

6 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 8.

7 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 8.

8 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 6.

9 Most of the beverages in this category have alcohol content of between 4% and 6%, similar to most traditional malt beverages. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), "Notice No. 4—Flavored Malt Beverages and Related Proposals," Federal Register (March 24, 2003): 14293.

10 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 6.

11 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 3, 7.

12 "Most popular" refers to the regularly scheduled programs with the largest teen audiences during a single representative week in each year. See report for methodology. Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 13.

13 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 13.

14 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 1, 8, 11-12.

15 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 11.

16 Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003, 11-12.

17 For more information, see Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2003. Audience is at least 15% ages 12 to 20 out of a total viewing audience of all aged two and older. TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, 2003; Nielsen Media Research, 2003.
 
2005 The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth