Exposure to alcohol advertising is an everyday occurrence. Alcohol advertising is persuasive not only to adults but to those who are too young to buy alcohol legally. Although parents and peers have a large impact on youth decisions to drink, marketing also has a significant impact by influencing the attitudes of parents and peers and helping to create an environment that promotes underage drinking. Alcohol companies focus billions of dollars on advertising their products and still claim that the effect is minimal. I pose a few questions that are; who are the targets of alcohol advertising? How does alcohol advertising affect the people targeted by alcohol companies? Finally what actions are being taken to prevent the encouragement of underage drinking or other alcohol related tragedies?
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States. It is also one of the most heavily advertised products in the United Sates. Alcohol companies generate more then 65 Billion Dollars a year in revenue, and spend way over 1 Billion Dollars a year on advertising. Unfortunately young people and heavy drinkers are the primary targets of the advertisers. Research indicates that advertising contributes to increased consumption of alcohol by young people and serves as a source of negative socialization for young people. Many that argue that peer pressure to drink is the major influence of young people strongly overlook the role of advertising.
About one third of Americans chose not to drink at all, another third drink moderately, and the final third drink regularly. Ten percent of the drinking-age population consumes 60 percent of the alcohol which means that 40 percent of the alcohol being consumed today is consumed by minors. If alcoholics were to recover, in other words stop drinking entirely, the alcohol companies' gross revenues would be cut in half. Recognizing this important marketing fact, alcohol companies deliberately devise ads designed to appeal to heavy drinkers. The heavy user of alcohol is usually an addict.
Another interesting perspective on the industry's claim that it only advertises to encourage moderate drinking to those of age, is that if this were true, and only the 105 million drinkers of legal age in the US consumed the official maximum "moderate" amount of alcohol, .99 ounces or roughly two drinks, a day the industry would suffer a 40 percent decrease in the sale of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Meaning that if alcohol companies truly only targeted who they claim they do, they would only be nearly cutting their profits in half.
Besides the heavy drinkers, the young audience plays a great deal to the alcohol industry. It is no wonder alcohol is appealing to the youth when ads only display very healthy, attractive, and youthful-looking people. Advertising is a powerful educating force in American Culture, one that promotes attitudes and values as well as products. Ads are now even featuring characters with special appeal to children. The makers of some 200 consumer products including stuffed animals, dolls, T-shirts, posters, and mugs are dedicated to alcohol. Advertisements have even gone as far as popular children's movies; one example of this was the very popular "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" movie. The average age which people begin drinking today is 12. Surveys have found that nearly one third or all fourth graders have experienced peer pressure to drink alcohol.
The college market is particularly important to the alcohol companies not only because of the money students will spend today, but because the students will most likely develop drinking habits and brand allegiances for a lifetime. As marketing executive for Budweiser Richard Wilson said, "let's not forget that getting a freshman to choose a certain brand of beer may mean that he will maintain his of her brand loyalty for the next 20 to 35 years. If he or she turns out to be a big drinker, the beer...