Alcohol Advertising and Youth
HENRY SAFFER, Ph.D.
National Bureau of Economic Research, 365 Fifth Avenue, 5th floor, New York,
New York 10016-4309
ABSTRACT. Objective: The question addressed in this review is
whether aggregate alcohol advertising increases alcohol consumption among college
students. Both the level of alcohol-related problems on college campuses and
the level of alcohol advertising are high. Some researchers have concluded that
the cultural myths and symbols used in alcohol advertisements have powerful
meanings for college students and affect intentions to drink. There is, however,
very little empirical evidence that alcohol advertising has any effect on actual
alcohol consumption. Method: The methods used in this review include
a theoretical framework for evaluating the effects of advertising. This theory
suggests that the marginal effect of advertising diminishes at high levels of
advertising. Many prior empirical studies measured the effect of advertising
at high levels of advertising and found no effect. Those studies that measure
advertising at lower, more disaggregated levels have found an effect on consumption.
Results: The results of this review suggest that advertising does increase
consumption. However, advertising cannot be reduced with limited bans, which
are likely to result in substitution to other available media. Comprehensive
bans on all forms of advertising and promotion can eliminate options for substitution
and be potentially more effective in reducing consumption. In addition, there
is an increasing body of literature that suggests that alcohol counteradvertising
is effective in reducing the alcohol consumption of teenagers and young adults.
Conclusions: These findings indicate that increased counteradvertising,
rather than new advertising bans, appears to be the better choice for public
policy. It is doubtful that the comprehensive advertising bans required to reduce
advertising would ever receive much public support. New limited bans on alcohol
advertising might also result in less alcohol counteradvertising. An important
topic for future research is to identify the counteradvertising themes that
are most effective with youth. (J. Stud. Alcohol, Supplement No. 14:
ALCOHOL REMAINS popular with American college students, as indicated by the
Core Institute Survey (1998). In 1997, 84.2% of college students reported drinking
alcohol, an increase of 2% over the prior year. For comparison, there were similar
increases in the prevalence of tobacco and marijuana use. Moderate to heavy
drinking also increased with corresponding reductions in abstention and light
drinking. Nationwide, students reported consuming an average of 5.64 drinks
per week in 1997, up about 7% over 1996. The Core Institute also reported that
45.5% of students had consumed five or more drinks in one sitting in the previous
2 weeks. More than 21% of the students reported three or more episodes of this
kind of high-risk drinking in the previous 2 weeks. Finally, more than 90% of
American college students reported that drinking is a central part of campus
According to Competitive Media Reporting, more than
$1.2 billion was spent in 1998 on alcohol advertising in
measured media (i.e., print media, outdoor advertising, radio
and television). An additional two-thirds billion dollars
was spent on other forms of promotion, including sponsorships,
couponing and direct mail. Alcohol advertising had
decreased from 1987 to 1996 by 34%, in real terms. However,
since 1997, alcohol advertising has been increasing.
Part of the recent increase includes the use of cable television
by spirits advertisers.
Both the level of alcohol misuse on college campuses
and the level of alcohol advertising are high. A recent report
by the Federal Trade Commission (1999) concluded
that underage individuals have significant exposure to alcohol
advertising. However, evidence of exposure does not
prove that alcohol advertising induces more alcohol consumption
by young people. A number of studies have examined
the relationship between alcohol advertising and
attitudes about alcohol held by young people. Some believe
that cultural myths and symbols used in alcohol advertisements
have powerful meanings for college students.
Others have concluded that alcohol advertising affects
knowledge, attitudes and intentions to drink, which in turn
are believed to affect drinking. This type of inquiry has led
some public health groups to conclude that there is a positive
link between advertising and alcohol consumption. For
instance, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (1999) maintains
that alcohol advertising and marketing are factors in
the environment that help create problems of underage drinking
and college high-risk drinking. There is, however, very
little empirical evidence that alcohol advertising has any
effect on actual alcohol consumption (e.g., see Fisher, 1993;
Nelson, 1999). This review article will try to resolve these
conflicting conclusions and provide some guidance for public
policy directed at campus alcohol misuse.
Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Demand
Competition through advertising, rather than price, is often
preferred in industries that are highly concentrated, such
as the alcohol industry. A highly concentrated industry is
characterized by a small number of relatively large firms.
Schmalensee (1972) showed that firms competing with a
small number of rivals are likely to advertise more than a
similar firm in a monopoly situation. The advertising-tosales
ratio for the alcohol industry is about 9%, in comparison
with the average industry advertising-to-sales ratio,
which is about 3% (Advertising Age, 1999).
The theory of brand capital explains the process by which
advertising affects demand and can also explain alcohol
advertising effects on knowledge, attitudes and intentions
to drink. Brand capital is defined as the collective positive
associations that individuals have about a brand. Firms with
higher levels of brand capital will have higher sales because
they provide consumers with higher levels of utility.
Brand capital can depreciate over time, accompanied by
decreases in sales. Firms can attempt to offset decreases in
sales by creating additional brand capital. Depending on
the relative marginal costs and marginal benefits, the addition
to brand capital will be either in the form of new brands
or in the form of changes in the type and level of advertising
for existing brands.
The creation of a new brand involves three steps: (1)
market segmentation, (2) the creation of a branded product
and (3) the creation of new advertising for the brand, with
content targeted at the intended market segment. Changes
in the type and level of advertising for existing brands involve
steps one and three only.
Market segmentation can be based on geography (e.g.,
region, size of community), demographics (e.g., age, gender,
race, religion), behavior (e.g., frequency of purchase,
occasion of purchase, readiness to purchase) or psychographics
(e.g., values, attitudes, personality, lifestyle). Market
segments can also be defined with combinations of these
categories. For an existing brand, the market segment to be
targeted may be redefined.
The creation of branded products consists of producing
distinguishable products with unique packaging or with
unique product features. Branding can be accomplished with
individual brand names, such as Miller and Red Dog, which
have no obvious association with each other, or by creating
brand families. The brands in a family all have the same
name but have different attributes, such as lite beer, ice
beer and genuine draft beer, or different packaging attributes,
such as glass bottles, extra large size containers or long
Targeted advertising refers to the specific imagery used
to create the "personality" for a brand. Targeting also requires
choosing media that will expose the intended market
segment to the advertising. Product personalities are designed
to appeal to specific market segments. For example,
in targeting young people, Coors beer is associated with an
unspoiled wilderness, whereas Budweiser is associated with
athletic success. Use of these products connects the young
person's fantasies to these fantasy images. For an existing
brand, the personality and media may be changed.
Product price provides information about intended product
quality. If the brand has been defined as a premium
product, brand capital will be decreased by frequent discounting
or a permanent decrease in product price. These
would signal a decrease in perceived product quality, thus
reducing the brand capital that has been created by investing
in advertising. Although the price of various brand categories
tends to be the same for all firms, price variation
across markets is created by state taxes, transportation costs
and local cost factors. Variations in the level of advertising
also exist across markets because of local cost factors.
Products with higher levels of brand capital provide increased
utility to individuals in a specific market segment
and are more likely to be purchased than products that have
less brand capital. A company with more brand capital can
achieve a larger market share than a company with less.
Increases in brand capital may result from the creation of
additional brands or more increases in capital per brand.
The introduction of a new brand may shift customers from
an existing brand, but it can also attract new consumers
into the market. Therefore, a firm that increases its brand
capital in this way will increase its market share and may
also increase the size of the market. The economic feasibility
of this strategy is limited by several factors. The market
must be large enough so there are enough potential customers
and revenue to balance the costs of creating the
new product and packaging and of effectively creating and
placing the advertising. The process also depends critically
on the availability of media where advertising can be placed.
That is, if all alcohol advertising were banned from all
media, the possibility of market expansion through the process
of brand proliferation would be quite limited.
Advertising and other marketing techniques are one potential
source of information for young people about the
costs and benefits of alcohol. Advertising creates the impression
that, for a relatively small expenditure, young
people can psychologically connect to the positive fantasy
places, lifestyle and personality characteristics that it portrays.
Advertising-supplied information can result in more
positive expectancies about alcohol, which can change actual
or intended consumption behavior. In addition, for a
bounded community of youth, such as a college campus,
alcohol advertising can increase alcohol consumption by
the whole community. If this happens, then the social norms
of that campus have been changed, and this can have a
strong effect on drinking decisions by individual students.
In effect, the new social norms provide new information
about costs and benefits of drinking, especially social costs
Methodological Issues in Advertising Studies
The theory of brand capital can explain why advertising
increases positive alcohol expectancies, but does not explain
why econometric studies of alcohol consumption often find
no effect from advertising. An examination of some of the
methodological issues in econometric studies will help to
resolve this discrepancy and provide some important insights
into how studies of alcohol advertising and market
level consumption should be conducted. The most important
concept in economic theory is diminishing marginal
product, which states that the continued increments of an
input to a process will at some point lead to ever smaller
increments in output. This concept is the basis of the advertising
response function that is used in brand level research
to illustrate the effect of advertising on consumption
at various levels of advertising. Economic theory suggests
that due to diminishing marginal product, advertising response
functions flatten out at some point. That is, after a
certain point consumption becomes ever less responsive to
increases in advertising. Ultimately consumption is completely
unresponsive to additional advertising. Brand level
empirical work on beer advertising clearly supports this
model (Ackoff and Emshoff, 1975; Rao and Miller, 1975).
One important implication of diminishing marginal product
is that, since media are not perfect substitutes for one another,
media diversification is necessary to maximize the
effect of a given advertising budget.
The same model that describes the brand level advertising
response function can be applied at the product level,
defined as all products produced in an industry. For example,
the product level for alcohol would include all brands
and variations of beer, wine and spirits. The product level
and brand level advertising response functions are similar
and are illustrated in Figures 1a and 1b. The vertical axis
measures product level consumption (or brand level consumption),
and the horizontal axis measures product level
(or brand level) advertising. The product level response function
differs from the brand level response function in that
advertising induced sales must come at the expense of sales
of products from other industries, assuming individuals'
spending remains constant. Increases in consumption come
from new consumers or from increases by existing consumers.
New consumers are often adolescents who are uninformed
about the true costs and benefits of alcohol
consumption. Earlier initiation is associated with increased
alcohol-related problems in adolescence and adulthood and
with increased lifetime risk for alcohol-related injury (Grant
and Dawson, 1997; Hawkins et al., 1997; Hingson et al.,
2000; Zucker and Fitzgerald, 1991).
Counteradvertising, which is the use of media to promote
public health, is subject to the same law of diminishing
marginal product as advertising. Figure 2 illustrates the
effect of counteradvertising on consumption. The vertical
axis measures consumption, and the horizontal axis measures
counteradvertising. The response function is downward
sloping, indicating that increases in counteradvertising
reduce consumption. Again, the response function flattens
out at high levels of counteradvertising due to diminishing
A second important aspect of advertising is that its effects
linger over time. That is, advertising in Period 1 will
have a lingering, although smaller, effect in Period 2. Although
the rate of decline over time remains an arguable
issue, research such as that of Boyd and Seldon (1990)
finds that advertising fully depreciates within a year. The
lingering but declining effect of advertising is the basis for
a widely used advertising technique known as pulsing.
Pulses, or bursts of advertising in a specific market that
last for short time periods, are separated by periods of no
advertising. The length and intensity of pulses vary according
to a variety of factors, including media used, specific
advertisers and advertising costs in the designated market.
Econometric studies of advertising and total consumption
generally use one of four basic approaches: (1) studies
that use annual or quarterly national aggregate expenditures
as the measure of advertising, (2) studies that use
cross-sectional measures of advertising, (3) studies of advertising
bans and (4) studies of counteradvertising. The
two response functions represented in Figures 1a and 1b
illustrate the likely outcome of alternative methods of measuring
Consider first studies that use annual national expenditures as the measure
of advertising. These are the yearly total of all alcohol advertising expenditures,
for all advertisers, in all media, for all geographic market areas. This is
a high level of aggregation of advertising data, and as a result the data have
very little variation over time. Because alcohol is heavily advertised, the
marginal product of advertising may be very low or zero. In Figure 1a, this
is equivalent to measuring advertising in a small range around Al.
The loss of variance due to aggregation leaves little to correlate with consumption;
because the advertising occurs at a level where the marginal effect is small,
it is not likely that any effect of advertising will be found.
Consider next studies that use cross-sectional data as
the measure of alcohol advertising. Although there are exceptions,
this type of data is typically local level, such as a
Metropolitan Statistical Area, for periods of less than a year.
It can have greater variation than national level data for
several reasons, including pulsing. The pattern of pulses
varies across local areas. In addition, the cost of advertising
varies across local areas, which also contributes to differences
in advertising levels. This is illustrated in Figure
lb by the three data points Am1, Am2 and Am3. An econometric
study that uses monthly or quarterly local level data
would potentially detect larger variation in advertising levels
and in consumption. When data are measured over a
relatively larger range, there is a greater probability of being
in the upward sloping portion of the response function.
Local level advertising data are thus more likely to find a
positive relationship between advertising and consumption.
Consider next studies of alcohol advertising bans. The
potential effect of a ban on certain media is shown as a
downward shift of the response function in Figures 1a and
1b. An advertising ban may not reduce the total level of
advertising but will reduce the effectiveness of the remaining
nonbanned media. This occurs because a ban on one or
more media will result in substitution into the remaining
media. However, each medium is subject to diminishing
marginal product so the increased use of the nonbanned
media will result in a lower average product for these media.
This shifts the response function downward. Firms may
or may not respond to this decrease in effectiveness of their
advertising expenditures. They may try to compensate with
more advertising, which would be illustrated by moving to
a higher level of advertising on a lower advertising response
function; or they might increase the use of other marketing
techniques such as promotional allowances to retailers.
Finally, consider counteradvertising. The amount of counteradvertising is low
and irregular over time. Thus, there is variation in the data even when aggregated
to the national level. Counteradvertising is therefore measured over a range
in which the function is decreasing (see Figure 2). It is likely that a negative
relationship between counteradvertising and consumption will be found.
Empirical Studies of Advertising and Youth
Empirical studies of alcohol advertising and youth fall
into three categories. First, targeting studies attempt to document
that advertising targets youth by examining media
placement and advertising content. These studies examine
advertisements for consumer information, brand symbolism
and lifestyle portrayals that appeal to youth, but do not
correlate advertising exposure to consumer behavior. Second,
attitudinal studies attempt to correlate various attitudinal
data with alcohol advertising. These studies may
examine how small groups, in controlled environments, react
to controlled exposures to alcohol advertisements. Another
approach uses in-depth interviews to collect data on
what media people have recently been exposed to and measures
of alcohol use or beliefs. The advertising exposure
data are then correlated with data on beliefs about alcohol
or intentions to use alcohol. Third, econometric studies employ
data from existing large-scale surveys of individuals
and aggregate statistics for various communities. These studies
examine the effects of alcohol advertising on market
share and total alcohol consumption.
The first category of studies provides some evidence
that alcohol advertising is targeted at youth. A study by
Breed et al. (1990) found that alcohol advertising in college
newspapers far exceeded all other product advertisements.
The researchers concluded that alcohol advertising
originating locally encouraged irresponsible and heavy
drinking. Because their sample period predated the national
21-year-old minimum purchase age law, they could examine
the relative frequency of college alcohol advertising in
states with and without the 21-year-old minimum. They
found that the 21-year-old minimum age law had no effect
on the frequency of campus alcohol advertising. Grube
(1993) also found evidence of targeting: 2.4 alcohol commercials
per hour were placed in professional sports programs
and 1.2 per hour in college sports programming. This
compares with only .25 per hour in prime time fictional
programming. Grube also concluded that as children age
they become more aware of alcohol advertising.
The Center for Media Education (1998) also found evidence of youth targeting
in alcohol advertising on the Internet. They monitored alcohol promotion websites
for the period of August 18 through October 13, 1998. They found that 62% of
the 77 alcohol sites examined used marketing techniques that appealed to youth.
It would be useful to continue to explore the effect of Internet advertising
and promotion of alcohol.
Attitudinal studies find evidence that alcohol advertising
increases intentions to drink by adolescents. Grube
(1993) reviewed a series of studies that concluded that adolescents
more heavily exposed to advertising are more likely
to have positive attitudes toward drinking. Some studies
reviewed did not find an association between alcohol advertising
and alcohol use by young people. Grube noted
that correlational studies of this type have difficulty demonstrating
causality or its direction. Grube and Wallack
(1994) tried to correct for this weakness by using
nonrecursive statistical modeling techniques to test an
information processing model of advertising effects on
knowledge, attitudes and intentions. They also distinguished
between awareness of alcohol advertising and mere exposure
to advertising. In one group of grade school children,
those more aware of alcohol advertising were more affected
by it. They also found that awareness is not predisposed by
prior drinking intentions. Because alcohol advertising increases
awareness, they concluded that alcohol advertising
increases drinking intentions for the grade school students
Another small group study by Parker (1998) examined how alcohol advertisements
are perceived by college students. A meaning-based model of advertising incorporating
students' life themes, personal conflicts, view of self and view of others was
used to explore the role of alcohol advertising. Students were asked questions
about their interpretation of the advertisements, and these responses were compared
with their own life experiences and independently identified content themes.
The study concluded that the meanings of advertising messages are derived from
individuals' experiences. The study also found that college students were able
to identify cultural myths in the advertisements, but did not always believe
them. Themes most appealing to college students were those involving danger
and mystery. Econometric studies, the third category, find little evidence of
an effect of alcohol advertising due to the methodological problems described
earlier. Studies that use national aggregate advertising data as the measure
of advertising expenditures are the least likely to find an effect. This type
of data measures advertising in a range around Al in Figure 1a and,
according to the economic model presented earlier, is not likely to find an
advertising effect. Studies by Duffy (1987), Selvanathan (1989) and Nelson and
Moran (1995) are representative. Although they were important efforts to estimate
the effects of alcohol advertising, results were weak and inconsistent. There
were some methodological improvements in subsequent studies. Duffy (1991), Franke
and Wilcox (1987) and Nelson (1999) used quarterly rather than annual data.
Bourgeois and Barnes (1979) used cross-sectional data, and a study by Blake
and Nied (1997) added a number of new variables. The results from all five studies,
however, do not provide much support for the hypothesis that advertising increases
Only two alcohol advertising studies have used cross-sectional data. Goel and
Morey (1995) used a U.S. data set with 779 observations for the period 1959
to 1982 that have both time and geographic variation. They found some evidence
that alcohol advertising has a significant positive effect on consumption. A
second study by Saffer (1997) examined the effect of alcohol advertising on
highway fatalities. This study used 4 years of quarterly data from 75 local
level cross-sectional aggregates with a total of 1,200 observations. He concluded
that alcohol advertising increases highway fatalities.
Another group of studies examined the effect of advertising
bans on consumption. The potential effect of a ban
on certain media is a downward shift of the response function.
Firms may try to compensate with more advertising
or with other marketing techniques, such as promotional
allowances to retailers. The effects of advertising bans have
been studied with interrupted time series techniques and
Smart and Cutler (1976), Ogborne and Smart (1980) and
Makowsky and Whitehead (1991) examined the effect of
alcohol advertising bans in British Columbia, Manitoba and
Saskatchewan, respectively. All three studies failed to find
an effect of advertising bans on alcohol consumption. However,
these studies could not account for cross-border alcohol
advertising. These provincial bans may not have resulted
in a significant reduction in total advertising exposure because
the provinces receive a considerable amount of television
programming from the United States. These results
may also indicate that longer time periods are necessary to
observe changes in alcohol consumption in a single province
Ornstein and Hanssens (1985) examined the effects of
bans on outdoor advertising, bans on consumer novelties
and bans on price advertising on beer and spirits consumption
in the United States using state data for the period
1974 to 1978. States that allowed price advertising and
consumer novelties were found to have higher spirits
Saffer (1991) provided the first set of estimates of the
effect of television advertising bans on alcohol misuse. Time
series data from 17 countries for the period 1970 to 1990
were pooled. Alcohol misuse was estimated using alcohol
consumption, liver cirrhosis mortality rates and motor vehicle
mortality rates. Cultural factors that influence alcohol
use were measured by alcohol production variables, and a
set of country dummy variables were used in the analysis.
The results indicated that both alcohol advertising bans and
alcohol price can have a significant effect in reducing alcohol
Counteradvertising studies are likely to find effects on
consumption because counteradvertising is measured in a
range where the response function has a negative slope (Figure
2). Some evidence for effectiveness of counteradvertising
comes from studies of anti-drunk driving public
service announcements (PSAs). A review by Wallack and
DeJong (1995) concluded that PSAs can increase awareness
but may have little effect on behavior. However,
Ognianova and Thorson (1997) found that, for adults in
Missouri, PSAs can reduce drunk driving. This study did
not find an effect of PSAs on youth ages 15 to 20.
Additional evidence on the effectiveness of counteradvertising
comes from the tobacco literature. The antismoking
publicity events in 1953 and 1964 and the Fairness
Doctrine period from 1967 to 1970 provide good data for
econometric studies of counteradvertising. During the Fairness
Doctrine period, broadcasters in the United States were
required to donate air time to counteradvertising. At its
peak, the ratio of counteradvertising to advertising was one
to three. A number of studies found that counteradvertising
reduced cigarette consumption. Warner (1981), Lewit et al.
(1981), Schneider et al. (1981) and Baltagi and Levin (1986)
included measures of counteradvertising, and they all concluded
that counteradvertising was effective in reducing
A series of local counteradvertising campaigns have also
been analyzed. Pierce et al. (1990) found that counteradvertising
reduced smoking in two Australian cities. Hu et
al. (1995) found that counteradvertising reduced smoking
in California. Goldman and Glantz (1998) found effects
from counteradvertising in California and Massachusetts.
Flay (1987) reviewed the results of local counteradvertising
campaigns in Finland, Greece, the United Kingdom,
Norway, Israel, Austria and Canada and also concluded that
counteradvertising was effective in reducing cigarette
Counteradvertising has been an important part of
California's new tobacco control program. An interesting
study by Goldman and Glantz (1998) analyzed the effectiveness
of different counteradvertising messages and found
that messages that depicted tobacco executives as deceitful,
manipulative, dishonest and greedy were most effective.
According to the authors, this type of advertising helps
adults change their self-image as smokers from "guilty addict"
to "innocent victim." The least effective counteradvertising
portrayed smoking as unhealthy and unromantic.
The health messages did not convey any new information
and, for people with only a dim view of the future, were
meaningless. The romantic rejection themes did not work
because people believed that an individual's smoking status
could be overlooked if they were otherwise desirable.
Critics of alcohol advertising want to reduce the social
and medical problems associated with the misuse of alcohol,
and they often argue for a ban on alcohol advertising.
This policy choice is based on the assumptions that alcohol
advertising increases alcohol misuse and that bans eliminate
or reduce advertising. Although there is enough evidence
to conclude that advertising increases total alcohol
consumption and alcohol misuse, advertising bans reduce
advertising only under certain conditions. A ban on one or
two media, such as television and radio, will result in substitution
to available alternative media. It can be argued
that television and radio reach so many people that bans on
their use will surely have an effect. However, media that
can reach more people charge proportionally higher prices,
and, per dollar spent, television and radio are no more effective
than other mass media. It is possible that bans on
campus alcohol advertising could have an additional effect
by acting as a signal of administrative intolerance. The direction
and magnitude of the effects of such a policy, if
any, would be an interesting topic for future study.
The theory outlined earlier in the section on methodological
issues explains that a ban on use of a given medium
will result in substitution to other available media.
This does not reduce total expenditures on alcohol advertising,
and there is no reason to expect that a ban in a given
medium will have an effect on alcohol consumption. However,
forcing the expenditure into fewer media reduces the
effectiveness of the total outlay due to diminishing marginal
product, as described by the industry response function.
In a perfectly competitive market, a factor whose price
has risen or whose effectiveness has fallen would be employed
less extensively. However, the alcohol industry is
not a perfectly competitive industry and is better characterized
by a response-to-rivals model. Alcohol companies may
seek to compensate for loss of sales by increasing total
outlays on advertising of existing brands or by advertising
new brands. They may also seek to compensate with other
forms of promotion, such as retailer discounting or
couponing. The only way to reduce total advertising is to
legislate comprehensive advertising bans, including all forms
of promotion, and display of the product's name, the product
and product logos.
Because alcohol advertising bans have been fairly limited,
the experience with tobacco advertising bans provides
some empirical support for the theory presented above. In
the United States, immediately after tobacco advertising was
banned from radio and television in 1970, tobacco advertising
expenditures fell. However, within a few years, advertising
expenditures were back at their former level
(Eckard, 1991). Similarly, data from the Federal Trade Commission
(1998) indicate that during the past 20 years the
tobacco companies have shifted from advertising to other
promotional activities. This shift may have been in anticipation
of new restrictions, such as those included in the
recent master tobacco settlement between the industry and
the states. From 1986 to 1996 real spending on advertising
decreased by 40%; real spending on other promotional activities
increased by 45%. On balance, total promotional
spending has increased by 18%. Saffer and Chaloupka
(2000) and Saffer (2000) provide evidence that comprehensive
advertising bans reduce tobacco use and limited
bans have no effect.
Alcohol, unlike tobacco, has a historic place in social
custom. Of those who drink, 90% do so safely. For tobacco,
there is no safe level of consumption. Alcohol use
and misuse have also been trending downward over the
past few years. Given this history, it does not seem likely
that the type of advertising bans required to reduce alcohol
consumption would ever receive strong public support.
Although surveys show that the public supports the idea of
alcohol advertising bans, the recent entrance of spirits advertisers
in the cable television market has not generated
any public concern. Five Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development countries recently rescinded bans
on alcohol advertising. Alternatively, there is an increasing
body of literature that demonstrates that alcohol counteradvertising
is effective with teenagers and young adults
(Atkin, 1993). New restrictions on alcohol advertising might
also result in less alcohol counteradvertising. Given these
trade-offs, increased counteradvertising, rather than new advertising
bans, appears to be the better choice for public
Although alcohol counteradvertising may be a good
choice for reducing youth alcohol misuse, there is still much
to learn about the most effective content and placement.
The message content that was found to be effective against
tobacco industry manipulation may not be appropriate for
alcohol. Alcohol is widely accepted as part of social life,
generally consumed safely and recommended by the Surgeon
General. Message content that vilifies the industry is
not likely to produce the desired reaction. An important
area for future research is to identify the message content
that would be effective with youth. Also, the media mix
that would be most effective in bringing the message to
young people is not well understood. This is particularly
true for the Internet.
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Henry Saffer may be reached at the above address
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Last reviewed: 9/23/2005