Alcohol Marketing, the Alcohol Industry and Their Impact on



Alcohol Marketing, the Alcohol Industry and Their Impact on
Alcohol Marketing, the Alcohol
Industry and Their Impact on
Binge Drinking by Adolescents
Thomas F. Babor, PhD, MPH
The University of Connecticut School of Medicine
Department of Community Medicine
and Health Care
Farmington, Connecticut, USA
NZ Situation
• Above-average alcohol consumption
compared with other countries
• Binge drinking pattern, especially among
• Pacific Islanders and Maori drink more
NZ Situation: Harmful Effects
• In 2007, there were 802 deaths attributable
to alcohol, 5.4% of all deaths
• Maori men had the highest rates of
mortality and years of life lost
Social life effects: 20% of population
Home life effects: 14%
Chronic disease: ???
• Injuries and trauma ???
What causes alcohol abuse?
• Multiple genes may account for the observed genetic
vulnerability to alcohol as a drug as well as more
general traits (e.g., negative affectivity)
• Parental alcoholism may increase risk through
general deviance proneness and pharmacological
• Alcohol expectancies, drinking patterns, and
"drinking to cope" are learned through observation of
social models who are portrayed in reinforcing or
positive situations.
Alcohol Promotion
• The marketing of alcohol is a global industry
• Alcohol brands advertised through:
Print media
Point-of-sale promotions
the Internet
Product placements in movies and TV
Snoop Dogg Promotes
New caffeinated alcohol drink
• Snoop Dogg is promoting a
new caffeinated alcoholic
beverage called Blast.
• The product has a 12 percent
alcohol content and comes in a
variety of fruity flavors.
• Blast is criticized for being
nearly indistinguishable from
soft drinks and encouraging
binge drinking among young
• In a video Snoop Dogg frolics
with models at a photo shoot to
promote the launch of Blast.
Does marketing affect alcohol use
and abuse by young people?
• Studies in neuroscience, psychology and marketing
conclude that adolescents may be especially attracted to
risky branded products that, in their view, provide
immediate gratification, thrills, and/or social status.
• If an ad portrayal corresponds closely to personally
relevant reference groups, children will be more likely to
copy it.
• If children admire models in an advertisement, they learn
to expect that imitating the models’ behaviours will bring
positive results.
• Repeated exposure to visual modeling can make even
marginal behaviour seem normal and desirable by
desensitizing the observer to the possible risks
Effects of Alcohol Marketing
• Research shows that alcohol advertising reinforces
perceptions of drinking as positive, glamorous,
and relatively risk-free.
• Exposure to repeated high-level alcohol promotion
inculcates pro-drinking attitudes
• More focused consumer studies, especially recent
ones with sophisticated designs, show clear links
between advertising and drinking behaviour
Effects of Alcohol Marketing
• Strong evidence of effect of exposure to alcohol
marketing on younger people:
– Lowers the age at which drinking starts
– Increases the amounts drunk by young people
• There is more evidence that increased exposure is
associated with more drinking than decreased
exposure is associated with reduced drinking
• Plausible theoretical explanations based on
vulnerability theory, social learning principles and
developmental psychology
Research on alcohol marketing
• Smith & Foxcroft (2009) concluded: “The data from these
studies suggest that exposure to alcohol advertising in
young people influences their subsequent drinking
• Meier (2008) concluded “exposure to …TV, music videos
and billboards, which contain alcohol advertisements,
predicts onset of youth drinking and increased drinking.”
• Anderson et al. (2009) concluded: “alcohol advertising
and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents
will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are
already using alcohol.”
Types of Regulation
• Total bans (e.g.,
Norway, France)
• Partial bans (e.g., daytime TV)
• Industry self-regulation
(voluntary codes of
practice that restrict
certain content and
exposure markets)
Assumptions Behind Alcohol
Marketing Regulation
Regulating alcohol
advertising and other
Pan American
Reducing exposure to marketing
that normalizes drinking and links
it with social aspirations will slow
recruitment of young drinkers and
reduce heavier drinking
Reducing exposure to social
modeling of excessive drinking
will reduce underage drinking
Self-regulation codes
• Guidelines developed by the alcohol industry
that define responsible advertising practices
• Exposure guidelines: specify markets that should
not be exposed to alcohol promotions (e.g.,
children, adolescents, pregnant women)
• Content guidelines: specify content that should
not appear in advertising (e.g., cartoon characters,
celebrities, young looking actors, excessive
drinkers, drinking while driving)
Industry Self-regulation Codes
Vulnerability Assumption
• Certain groups should not be exposed to
irresponsible advertising content because of
presumed vulnerability to alcohol’s effects
or susceptibility to advertising
• Examples: children, adolescents, pregnant
women, alcoholics, children of alcoholics
…should not present alcohol beverages as a means of removing social or
sexual inhibitions, achieving sexual success, or making an individual
more sexually attractive (Guiding Principles, ICAP)
Santa’s Butt Beer
….alcohol marketing should not portray Santa
Claus and other images that appeal to children
…should not depict or be addressed to at-risk groups.
…should not present alcohol beverages as a means of removing social or sexual
inhibitions, achieving sexual success, or making an individual more sexually attractive
…should avoid showing minors (or people likely to be perceived as minors)
Compliance Review
 Complaints against beer advertisements are
made to the Code Compliance Review Board
 The beer manufacturer responds to the complaint
 3 members of the board make a decision
 In USA, the Compliance Board responded to 8
complaints in 2006 and 2007
 All were overturned
Controls to reduce exposure
• Exposure restrictions limit advertising to
certain hours of the day, and forbid alcohol
ads on programs likely to be watched by
• Despite these voluntary guidelines, children
and adolescents are exposed to large
amounts of alcohol marketing in countries
without total bans.
Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads
 Between 2001 and 2007, more than 2 million
alcohol advertisements were aired on U.S.
television; in 2001, 39% of these ads were aired
during sports programming
 Between 2001 and 2006, almost 20,000 alcohol ads
were placed in U.S. magazines
 Youth are 22 times more likely to see an alcohol ad
than a public service announcement
 In 2006, 4.4 alcohol ads were aired per hour of
programming for the 15 highest rated TV shows in
the 12-20 age group
Evaluating industry codes
governing alcohol advertising
• A research project to:
• A) develop a new rating procedure to evaluate
alcohol marketing according to the industry’s
self regulation coes
• B) apply the procedure to ads broadcast on the
NCAA basketball tournament between 1997
and 2008
• Funded by the US National Institute on Alcohol
Abuse and Alcoholism
Initial Research with 300 college
students who rated 6 ads considered to
have possible code violations
• College students perceive actors in some beer
commercials to be excessive drinkers
• These perceptions are related to individual
differences in alcohol expectancies, family history of
alcoholism, alcohol dependence severity, binge
drinking and alcohol-related problems
• Heavy drinkers perceive more drinking in alcohol ads
but are less likely to call it excessive
Measuring Code Violations
• Questions measuring the viewers’ agreement or
disagreement with statements of fact and opinion (e.g.
“This ad depicts situations where beer is being consumed
• Viewers’ perception of the age group to which the ad
primarily appealed (e.g. “The images in this ad are most
appealing to which of the following age groups: below 21;
between 21 and 30; etc.”).
• Perception of the appeal of the ad (e.g. “How appealing are
the images in the ad to you?”). Scale: “Very Unappealing”
to “Very appealing”.
• Perception of the amount of drinking taking place (e.g.
“How many drinks do you estimate this person is likely to
consume in the situation shown in the ad?”).
Ad # 5 - Stamp of Approval –
Smirnoff Ice malt beverage (print ad)
This full page magazine ad shows an arm grasping a
bottle of Smirnoff Ice malt beverage. There is no human
face on this picture, just an arm. The bare skin of the arm
shows six different nightclub stamps. One text
superimposed on the picture reads “4:06 am. We get past
our sixth doorman of the evening.” Another text reads:
“See where it takes you.”
Smirnoff Ice: Stamp of Approval
Example of violation
Stamp of Approval - Smirnoff Ice
Description of item
How many drinks do you estimate this person is likely to
consume in the situation shown in the ad? (# of drinks)
This ad shows situations where people are drinking alcohol
responsibly. (Reversed)
This ad suggests that being drunk is acceptable.
The NCAA Beer Ad Study
• Funded by NIAAA
• 290 beer advertisements shown during the men’s and/or
women’s NCAA basketball tournament were rated by 15
professionals trained in psychology, public health,
alcoholism, social work and other helping professions
Aims of NCAA Beer Ad Study
• Estimate the prevalence of content code violations in
beer ads shown during the NCAA tournament games
– Determine which sections of the Code are violated
most often
– To determine if different producers use age targeting
to different degrees
– To determine if different products are intended to
appeal to different age groups
Percent ads with a violation by producer
a An
% Ads with
a violationa
All other
advertisement was in violation of the advertising code when all expert raters agreed a violation existed for the ad
• Code violations of the US Beer Institute
Guidelines are prevalent (35%) during
NCAA sports events that appeal primarily
to US college students.
• Significant differences among the major
US beer producers, with Anheuser-Busch
ads having the highest prevalence of code
• Most violations were found in content areas
suggesting key public health concerns, such as
content appealing primarily to young persons and
the association of beer drinking with social
success and sexual attractiveness.
• Findings are consistent with evidence from other
countries showing that alcohol industry selfregulation procedures are ineffective in preventing
content violations.
• Self-regulation codes tend to be easily
circumvented and largely ineffective.
• The Precautionary Principle suggests that
alcohol promotion communications should
be limited in the interests of public health.
• Industry compliance with self-regulation
advertising codes should be evaluated
regularly for both exposure and content
Model Policy: Loi Evin
• Passed in 1985 but not defined and enforced
until 1991
• Definition of alcoholics drinks (1.2%)
• No advertising targeted at young people
• No ads on TV or in movies
• No sponsorship of cultural or sporting
Model Policy: Loi Evin
• Advertising permitted only in the press (for
adults), on billboards, on radio
• Messages and images should refer only to
the qualities of the product such as origin,
composition, production, etc.
• A health message must be included on each
Global Dimensions
• There has been a marked increase in alcohol
marketing, especially in emerging markets.
• There are unprecedented levels of exposure of
young persons to sophisticated marketing
• Voluntary codes of content have been shown to be
ineffective in a variety of countries.
• Unlike tobacco, there is, as of yet, no international
or regional agreement to restrict alcohol
• The protection of children and young adults
from the effects of alcohol marketing
requires more than industry self-regulation
• Civil society, professional organizations and
NGOs should support evidence-based
policies to regulate alcohol marketing in
ways similar to the regulation of tobacco
• Alcohol problems can be minimized or prevented
using a coordinated, systematic policy response.
• Alcohol policies that limit access to alcoholic
beverages, discourage driving under the influence of
alcohol, reduce the legal purchasing age for alcoholic
beverages, limit marketing exposure and increase the
price of alcohol, are likely to reduce the harm linked
to drinking
• In most countries, regulation of affordability, physical
availability, and alcohol promotions are the most costeffective strategies, but enforcement of drink driving
laws and provision of treatment and early intervention
are also needed
• Effective interventions produce a favorable health
return for cost incurred in policy implementation

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