Fewer Drops in the Bucket: Alcohol Industry 'Responsibility' Advertising Declined on Television in 2002

  • May 24, 2004

This purpose of this report is to examine youth and adult exposure to alcohol industry responsibility advertising on television in 2002 in comparison with exposure to the industry's advertising for alcohol products.

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth reviewed all alcohol industry "responsibility" advertising on television in 2002, as reported by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. "Responsibility" ads in this report were defined as any ads warning against driving after drinking or encouraging use of a designated driver, advising viewers to drink responsibly, or informing them about the legal drinking age of 21. "Product" ads were ads that marketed alcohol products. Although many of these product ads included 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 responsibility message such as warning against drinking and driving or discouraging underage drinking. There was no attempt to assess the effectiveness of the messages in the ads. The responsibility advertisements were analyzed in terms of spending and youth and adult audiences reached, and were also compared with such responsibility advertising in 2001.

Key findings included:

  • Alcohol industry "responsibility" advertising declined substantially in 2002 from 2001 levels, at the same time that alcohol product advertising increased significantly. In 2002, alcohol companies placed 289,381 product commercials for alcohol on television and 1,280 responsibility advertisements, compared with 208,909 product advertisements and 2,379 responsibility ads in 2001. In other words, for every one responsibility ad aired in 2002, there were 226 product ads. In 2001, the ratio was 1 to 88. For every dollar spent on responsibility ads in 2002, the industry spent $99 on product ads. In 2001, the ratio was $1 to $35.
  • Advertising purchased by alcohol producers warning about drunk driving or the legal drinking age accounted for one percent of dollars spent, and less than one half of one percent of ads purchased by alcohol companies on television in 2002.