Drops in the Bucket: Alcohol Industry 'Responsibility' Advertising on Television in 2001

  • February 03, 2003

Alcohol abuse is the leading drug problem among America's youth. Youth alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths have risen in the past two years, despite a decline in the number of young people reporting drinking. Alcohol continues to be closely associated with the three leading killers of kids: motor vehicle crashes and other unintentional injuries, suicides and homicides.

Efforts to have alcohol included in the federal "drug czar's" anti-drug campaign have been defeated twice in Congress, although the federal anti-drug campaign has included some alcohol Public Service Announcements (PSAs) developed by other organizations in its "match" with networks, that is, in time slots donated by the networks. By default, therefore, alcohol companies have become the primary source of educational messages about alcohol abuse on television.

Following on its recent reports on alcohol advertising in national magazines and on television, the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) commissioned Virtual Media Resources (VMR), a media planning and research firm in Natick, Massachusetts, to analyze the alcohol industry's televised "responsibility" ads in 2001, using the same standard data sources and methodologies employed by media planning and buying professionals. While many alcohol ads include brief or small voluntary warnings (which research has found to be ineffective), "responsibility ads" for the purposes of this report had to have as their primary focus a clear, unambiguous message about drinking responsibly, not drinking and driving, or discouraging underage drinking.