Fact Sheet Index
Television, Alcohol Ads and Youth, 2001 to 2005
Television alcohol advertising from 2001 to 2005 resulted in alcoholic beverage advertising substantially exposing young people to their products.
Television is the primary medium for advertisers, and this also holds true for the advertisers of most leading alcoholic beverages. As shown in the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth's December 2006 report, Still Growing After All These Years: Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 - 2005, alcohol companies spent $4.7 billion to place 1.4 million advertisements for alcoholic beverages on television from 2001 to 2005.
Nearly all youth watch television frequently:
- 94 percent of teens aged 12 to 19 said in the spring of 2005 that they had watched television in the last week, reporting an average of 10.14 hours in front of the television that week. More teens reported watching television than doing any other activity, and it took up more of their time than listening to the radio, using the internet, hanging out with friends, and talking on the phone.1
- More teens say they own television sets than backpacks, wristwatches or bicycles.2
Alcohol advertising on television—and youth exposure to it—grew dramatically between 2001 and 2005:
- Teens aged 12 to 19 ranked ads for Bud Light as number one and Budweiser as number four when asked to choose their favorite television commercial in a spring 2005 study. Among the other brands ranked behind Budweiser in popularity in teens' top 10 were GEICO, Six Flags, Pepsi and Quiznos ads.3
- Everyone is seeing more alcohol ads on television. From 2001 to 2005, youth (ages 12 to 20) exposure to those ads increased by 41%, compared to a 39% increase in exposure to young adults (ages 21 to 34), and a 48% increase in adult (age 21+) exposure.4
- The number of alcohol ads placed on programming more likely to be seen by youth ages 12 to 20 than adults age 21+ has trended downwards over the past five years, but remains above 2001 levels. As a percentage of alcohol product advertising on television, the number of such ads fell from 25% (56,852 ads) in 2001 to 20% (60,811 ads) in 2005.5,6
- Driving the increases in alcohol advertising on television from 2001 to 2005 was the historic increase in ads for distilled spirits on national cable networks?from 1,973 in 2001 to 46,854 in 2005. Spending on distilled spirits advertising on television grew from $5 million in 2001 to $122 million in 2005.7
Teens' favorite television programs had alcohol advertising:
- Programming popular with teens is filled with alcohol advertising. Since 2001, alcohol ads have appeared every year on 13 or more of the 15 programs most popular with teens ages 12 to 17.8
- Throughout 2005, alcohol companies placed more than 1,300 ads on 14 of the 15 programs most popular with teen audiences, including Lost, Desperate Housewives, Monday Night Football and CSI, at a cost of nearly $38 million.9
- Youth overexposure to alcohol advertising is most likely to occur on cable television. In 2001, 60% of youth overexposure was on cable television, while in 2005, 93% of overexposure was on cable. On three cable networks ? Comedy Central, VH1 and BET ? youth were consistently overexposed to alcohol advertising every year from 2001 to 2005. In 2005, youth were more likely to see alcohol advertisements on these networks than young adults ages 21 to 34, a group often mentioned as the industry's target audience.10
The industry's voluntary guidelines are inadequate:
- Alcohol industry self-regulation is the primary means of regulating alcohol advertising's exposure of youth. The current alcohol industry standard, announced in September 2003, sets the maximum permissible youth audience composition for alcohol advertising at 30%. Because youth ages 12 to 20 are only 13.3% of the national television viewing audience, a threshold of 30% allows alcohol ads to be placed on programs where there are more than twice as many youth as in the viewing population.11
- From 2001 to 2004, between 11% and 13% of alcohol ads aired each year appeared on programs with an underage audience of 30% or more. The figure fell to 8% in 2005.12
- Although everyone is seeing more alcohol advertising on television, the increase in youth exposure has blunted the impact of the 30% threshold. The rise in youth exposure on television has also offset declines in youth exposure in other media.
The figure above shows that the trends in youth exposure (measured in gross rating points or GRPs) to alcohol ads in magazines and on television have moved in opposite directions since adoption of the 30% standard in September 2003. The result is that young people ages 12 to 20 saw as much alcohol advertising in these two media combined in 2005 as they did in 2001.13
- In 2001, after a failed attempt to convince one of the four broadcast networks to change those networks' voluntary ban on spirits ads, distillers began increasing their spending on cable television. A seventeen-fold increase in spending from 2001 to 2005 bought a nearly nine-fold increase in the number of spirits ads on television, with spirits rising from 3% to 16% of alcohol advertisements on television.14
- Since beer and distilled spirits industry groups announced in September 2003 the adoption of the 30% underage audience threshold for placements of alcohol advertising, youth exposure has increased, even though the number of alcohol ads more likely to be seen by youth than adults has fallen in recent years. Youth ages 12 to 20 who were exposed to alcohol advertising saw an average of 217 alcohol ads on television in 2001, and 309 such ads in 2005.15
- In 2003, the National Research Council/Institute of Medicine recommended that alcohol companies move toward a 15% threshold. If alcohol companies had observed a 15% threshold on television in the first ten months of 2004, youth exposure to alcohol advertising could have been reduced by 20% with virtually no impact on the industry's ability to reach young adults, and with a savings of approximately 8% in the companies' advertising expenditures.16