Alcohol ad exposure for youth up 71% on television


So says a report just released by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Despite efforts by alcohol companies to strengthen their self-regulatory standards, the average number of ads seen by youth watching television increased from 217 in 2001 to 366 in 2009, or one alcohol ad per day. That’s an increase of 71%.

In 2003, the trade associations representing beer and distilled spirits companies joined the wine industry in committing to place ads only when the underage audience composition is 30% or less.  Their previous threshold had been 50%. The report shows the rise of distilled spirits ads on cable is driving the increase.

Youth exposure to distilled spirits advertising grew by nearly 3,000% from 2001 to 2009, primarily on cable. The majority of youth exposure to alcoholic beverage advertising on cable occurred on programming that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely to be watching than adults 21+.

Virtual Media Resources, an ad research firm, analyzed for CAMY nearly 2.7 million product ads placed by alcohol companies between 2001 and 2009. 

“One a day is great for vitamins but not for young people being exposed to alcohol advertising,” said David Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. “This is a significant and troubling escalation, and shows the ineffectiveness of the industry’s current voluntary standards.”

Other findings:
•      In 2009, while 13% of youth exposure came from advertising placed above the industry’s voluntary 30% threshold, a total of 44% came from advertising that overexposed youth—meaning youth were more likely to see the ad on a per capita basis than an adult—compared to persons of legal purchase age 21 and above.

•      From 2004, the first full calendar year after the industry implemented its 30% standard, to 2009, youth exposure to distilled spirits ads on cable television doubled. In that same period, exposure to beer ads on cable TV grew by nearly a third — a faster rate than the exposure of adults ages 21 and above or young adults ages 21 to 34.

•      In 2009, five cable networks were more likely to expose youth per capita to alcohol advertising than adults 21 and above: Comedy Central, BET, E1, FX and Spike.   Two of these—Comedy Central and BET—delivered more exposure to youth than to young adults ages 21-34.

•      In 2009, 12 brands generated half of youth overexposure:  Miller Lite, Coors Light, Captain Morgan Rums, Bud Light, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Miller Genuine Draft Light Beer, Crown Royal Whiskey, Corona Extra Beer, Disaronno Originale Amaretto, Smirnoff Vodkas, Miller Chill, and Labatt Blue Light Beer.

•      From 2001 to 2009, youth were 22 times more likely to see an alcohol product ad than an alcohol company-sponsored “responsibility” ad warning against underage drinking or drinking and driving.

RBR-TVBR observation: The networks dishing out the most alcohol ad exposure to children are pretty much aiming at demos higher than children’s age groups. Amazingly, as the report said, Comedy Central and BET delivered more exposure to youth than to young adults. The networks are following the guidelines, but for some reason, younger audiences are migrating over to older-demo networks. That’s the real trend.