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African-American Youth and Alcohol AdvertisingView the Fact SheetNews Release
African-American Youth Overexposed to Alcohol Advertising
CAMY study looks at alcohol advertising exposure among African-American youth.View Release
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Exposure of African-American Youth to Alcohol Advertising
The marketing of alcohol products in African-American communities has, on occasion, stirred national controversy and met with fierce resistance from African Americans and others.
Charges of over-concentration of alcohol billboards in African-American neighborhoods have prompted protests and legislative fights in Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles and elsewhere.1 Battles over the heavy marketing to the African-American community of malt liquor, a stronger-than-average beer, resulted in the banning of one new brand, PowerMaster, in the summer of 1991, and fines against the makers of another, St. Ides Malt Liquor, by the states of New York and Oregon, for advertising practices that allegedly targeted youth and glamorized gang activity.2
These local actions have also extended to efforts to reduce the availability of alcohol by restricting or shutting down alcohol outlets in numerous cities, including Chicago,3 Los Angeles4 and Oakland.5 They have garnered occasional attention in the mainstream news media and prominent spokespersons such as former Surgeon General Antonia Novello, who made the issue of alcohol marketing in African-American and Hispanic communities a focus during her tenure.
Despite these occasional media and community spotlights on the marketing of alcohol products in the African-American community, there has been no systematic review of the industry's advertising directed to the nation's second-largest minority. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) commissioned Virtual Media Resources (VMR) to audit the exposure of African-American youth to alcohol advertising in magazines and on radio and television in 2002.In previous reports, the Center has found widespread and pervasive overexposure of all youth6 to alcohol advertising in magazines and on television and radio.
In this context of youth being more likely than adults to see much of alcohol advertising, this analysis compares the exposure of African-American youth to that of non-African-American youth, and the Center finds that African-American youth were even more overexposed to alcohol advertising than non-African-American youth.
Specifically, the Center finds that in 2002:
- Alcohol advertising was placed on all of the television programs most popular with African-American youth. Alcohol advertisers spent $11.7 million in 2002 to place ads on all 15 of the programs most popular with African-American youth,7 including Bernie Mac, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, My Wife and Kids, and The Wonderful World of Disney.
- Alcohol advertising in magazines overexposed African-American youth compared to non-African-American youth, reached underage African Americans more effectively than young adult African Americans, and exhibited significant concentration of brands and magazines.
- Compared to non-African-American youth, African-American youth saw 66% more beer and ale and 81% more distilled spirits magazine advertisements in 2002, and 45% more magazine advertisements for malternatives, alcopops and other "low-alcohol refreshers."8 This means that 96% of African-American youth, on average, saw 171 alcohol ads, whereas 83% of non-African-American youth, on average, saw 111 ads.
- For beer, distilled spirits and the so-called low-alcohol refreshers, alcohol advertising in magazines reached more of the African-American underage audience with more ads than it reached African-American young adults, ages 21-34. The alcohol industry routinely refers to 21-34 year-olds as its target audience.9
- Fifteen alcohol brands accounted for more than half of the magazine advertising reaching underage African-American youth, and the alcohol industry placed 80% of the advertising reaching this audience in 13 publications.
- Alcohol advertising on radio overexposed African-American youth compared to non-African-American youth and was concentrated in two formats and five markets.
- African-American youth heard 12% more beer advertising and 56% more ads for distilled spirits than non-African-American youth.10
- Two formats-Urban Contemporary and Rhythmic Contemporary Hit-accounted for almost 70% of the alcohol advertising reaching underage African-American youth on radio.
- Five radio markets-New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston-Galveston, and Washington, D.C.-accounted for more than 70% of the alcohol advertising reaching underage African-American youth.
Why the Concern?
Alcohol is the drug most widely used by African-American youth.11 Although African-American youth drink less than other youth (according to the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 19.8% of African Americans between 12 and 20 used alcohol in the past 30 days, compared to 31.6% of whites, and 10.5% of African-American youth reported "binge" drinking in the past month, compared to 21.7% of whites),12 as they age, African Americans suffer more from alcohol-related diseases than other groups in the population. The age-adjusted death rate from alcohol-related diseases for non-Hispanic African Americans is 31% greater than for the general population.13 National surveys have found that while frequent heavy drinking among white 18-29 year-old males dropped between 1984 and 1995, rates of heavy drinking and alcohol problems remained high among African Americans in the same age group.14
Alcohol use contributes to the three leading causes of death among African-American 12-20 year-olds: homicide, unintentional injuries (including car crashes), and suicide.15 Research has shown that young people who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence than those who wait until age 21 to become drinkers, while those who start to drink prior to age 14 are more likely to experience alcohol-related injury.16
African-American youth culture already abounds with alcohol products and imagery. A content analysis of 1,000 of the most popular songs from 1996 to 1997 found that references to alcohol were more frequent in rap (47% of songs had alcohol references) than other genres such as country-western (13%), top 40 (12%), alternative rock (10%), and heavy metal (4%); and that 48% of these rap songs had product placements or mentions of specific alcohol brand names.17 Rap music videos analyzed around the same time contained the highest percentage of depictions of alcohol use of any music genre appearing on MTV, BET, CMT and VH-1.18 An analysis of alcohol depictions in rap music found that alcohol use was portrayed as conveying elements of disinhibition, rebellion, identity, pleasure, sensuality, and personal power.19
African-American youth are increasingly viewed by marketers as trendsetters for the entire youth population. While inner-city African Americans ages 15 to 19 were only 8% of all teens in the mid-1990s, "for most of the 1990s, hordes of suburban kids-both black and white-have followed inner-city idols' [sic] in adopting everything from music to clothing to language. Targeting this relatively small group of teens may open the door to the larger, more affluent, white, suburban market."20
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has noted that, "while many factors influence an underage person's drinking decisions, including among other things parents, peers, and media, there is reason to believe that advertising plays a role."21 Research studies have found that exposure to and liking of alcohol advertisements affect young people's beliefs about drinking, intentions to drink, and actual drinking behavior.22
Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America's youth. Reducing high rates of underage alcohol consumption and the suffering caused by alcohol-related injuries and deaths among young people requires using the public health strategies of limiting the access to and the appeal of alcohol to underage persons.
The Center is supported by grants from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Georgetown University.
Virtual Media Resources
The Center commissioned Virtual Media Resources to conduct this analysis. Virtual Media Resources is a media research, planning, market analysis and consulting firm based in Natick, Massachusetts, serving communications organizations and marketers in a wide variety of market segments and media. VMR was established in 1992 to provide an independent research firm serving advertising agencies, and has grown to service over 100 clients across the United States and Canada, including retail, publishing, financial, automotive, public health and other fields.
The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth would like to thank the following researchers for their independent review of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the foundations or the reviewers.
Troy Duster, Ph.D.
Professor, Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge
and Department of Sociology, New York University
Denise Herd, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, School of Public Health,
University of California, Berkeley
Mark S. Robinson
Co-founder, S/R Communications Alliance;
Member, Multicultural Marketing Leadership Council of the American Advertising Federation
About This Report
This report is based on data sources and methods that are available to ad agencies and advertisers as they make their decisions about where to place their advertising. VMR used industry-standard sources and adhered to industry-standard methodologies in conducting this analysis. Advertising occurrence and expenditure data came from TNS Media Intelligence/CMR (formerly known as Competitive Media Reporting or CMR) and Media Monitors Inc. (MMI). Audience data for magazines came from Simmons Market Research Bureau (SMRB), drawing on their national adult and teen surveys published in the fall of 2002, with a combined total of 22,362 respondents. Audience data for radio came from Arbitron Ratings, based on a total of 441,389 respondents. Additional data on television and magazine audiences for this report came directly from networks and magazines.
The measures in this report are standard to the advertising research field but may not be familiar to the general reader. "Reach" refers to the percentage of a target population that has the potential to see an ad or a campaign through exposure to selected media. "Frequency" indicates the number of times individuals are exposed to an ad or campaign, and is most often expressed as an average number of exposures. "Gross rating points" or "GRPs" are the product of reach and frequency, and as such are a standard measure of total advertising exposure. Further information on sources and methodology used may be found in Appendix A. Appendix B provides a glossary of advertising research terminology.