Report

Drowned Out: Alcohol Industry 'Responsibility' Advertising on Television, 2001–2005

  • June 27, 2007
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There is growing concern among policymakers and the general public about the impact of messages from popular and commercial cultures on youth perceptions, attitudes and health behaviors. The U.S. Congress recently asked the Department of Health and Human Services to monitor and report on rates of youth exposure to advertising and other media messages that encourage and discourage alcohol use.

Alcohol companies place television advertisements in both of these categories. Alcohol product advertising on television and per capita youth exposure to that advertising experienced historic increases between 2001 and 2005. However, youth exposure to alcohol industry-sponsored "responsibility" advertisements remained at consistently low levels compared to their exposure to alcohol product commercials. For instance, from 2001 to 2005 youth were 239 times more likely to see a product advertisement for alcohol than an alcohol industry "responsibility" message about underage drinking and 32 times more likely to see an alcohol product advertisement than an industry-sponsored "responsibility" advertisement about drinking and driving or drinking safely.

These findings come from an analysis by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) of 1,415,716 alcohol product advertisements and 41,333 alcohol industry-supported "responsibility" advertisements aired on U.S. television between 2001 and 2005, as reported in data licensed from Nielsen Media Research.

Other major findings from CAMY's analysis include:

  • Alcohol companies spent $4.9 billion on television advertising between 2001 and 2005. They spent 2.1% of this amount ($104 million) on "responsibility" advertisements.
  • Of the 109 alcohol companies advertising alcohol on television from 2001 to 2005, 8 companies aired "responsibility" advertising.
  • Of the 56 alcohol companies advertising alcohol on television in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available, 6 alcohol companies placed "responsibility" advertisements.
  • Of the 300 alcohol brands that placed product advertising on television from 2001 to 2005, at a total cost of $4.7 billion, 25 brands placed "responsibility" advertising, at a total cost of $104 million.
  • More brands aired "responsibility" advertising in 2005 than in any prior year. Of the 174 alcohol brands that placed product advertising on television in 2005, at a total cost of $1 billion, 19 brands sponsored "responsibility" advertisements on television, at a total cost of $28 million.