Alcohol Ads Steer Brand Choice Among Underage Drinkers

Davy James, Associate Editor
Published Online: Monday, August 4, 2014
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Study finds youth who drink underage more likely to choose brands they see advertised on television.
The Most Interesting Man in the World is not only a popular advertising icon for the beer Dos Equis, he may also play a role in steering underage drinkers to consume that brand.

In a recent study conducted by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Boston University School of Public Health, researchers found that underage drinkers are approximately 3 times more likely to consume brands advertised on TV shows they watch when compared to other alcohol brands. The study was published online on July 1, 2014, in Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research

The study examined advertising on 20 popular television shows that were associated with brand-specific consumption among underage drinkers. Combined with previous research that found magazine ads also influence consumption habits, the two studies indicate a strong relationship between advertising and alcohol brand choice among underage youth, according to the study authors.

“Taken together, these studies strengthen the case for a relationship between brand-specific alcohol advertising among underage youth and brand-specific consumption,” said lead author Craig Ross, PhD, MBA, in a press release. “As alcohol continues to devastate so many young lives, youth exposure to alcohol advertising should be reduced.”

For the current study, over 1000 youth between the ages of 13 and 20 years were recruited from a national Internet panel. All participants said they had consumed a minimum of 1 alcoholic drink in the past 30 days. The researchers then determined all of the brands the participants consumed during the same 30-day timeframe. The exposure of the participants to specific alcohol brand advertising on 20 television programs they watched was also examined.

A significant correlation was found between the consumption of a specific brand and exposure to advertising for that brand, with the relationship strongest at lower levels of exposure.

Even when accounting for parent drinking habits, whether the youth chose the brand themselves, the average price, and brand popularity among adults, the results still held.

“The question now becomes what do alcohol advertisers do with this information, given the consequences of alcohol consumption in underage youth,” added study co-author Michael B. Seigel, MD, MPH, in the press release.
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