Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising on Television, 2001 to 2007
Youth1 exposure to alcohol advertising on television has risen by 38% since the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth began monitoring this exposure in 2001. From 2001 to 2007, the number of alcohol advertisements seen in a year by viewers between 12 and 20 increased from 216 to 301. In 2007, approximately one of every five alcohol advertisements was placed on programming that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely per capita to see than adults of the legal drinking age.2 Almost all of these placements were on cable television, where distilled spirits companies have dramatically increased their alcohol advertising in the past seven years.
Researchers from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University (CAMY) and Virtual Media Resources of Natick, Massachusetts (VMR) analyzed the placements of 2,033,931 alcohol product advertisements that aired on television between 2001 and 2007, placed at a cost of $6.6 billion. Key findings include:
- In 2007, more than 40% of youth exposure to alcohol advertising on television came from ads placed on youth-oriented programming, that is, programs with disproportionately large audiences of 12-to-20-year-olds.
- Almost two-thirds (63%) of these overexposing ad placements in 2007 were on cable television, which generated 95% of youth overexposure to alcohol advertising on television.
- Of the youth overexposure on cable in 2007, 53% came from beer advertising, and 41% came from distilled spirits advertising.
- In a comparison of individual brands on the basis of their abilities to comply with industry voluntary codes on advertising placement and to avoid youth overexposure in 2007, 10 brands stood out, accounting for 41% of youth overexposure and 52% of advertisements placed above the industry's voluntary standard of a 30% maximum for youth in its audiences.
- Between 2001 and 2007, alcohol companies aired 73,565 "responsibility" advertisements on television. Youth ages 12 to 20 were 22 times more likely to see an alcohol product advertisement than an alcohol-industry-funded "responsibility" advertisement.
Why the Concern?
Alcohol is the leading drug problem among young people,3 and underage drinking is responsible for approximately 5,000 deaths per year among persons under age 21.4 Young people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely than those who wait to drink until age 21 to have alcohol problems later in life, including alcohol dependence and involvement in alcohol-related violence and motor vehicle crashes.5
Evidence that exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing increases the likelihood of underage drinking has grown substantially. Since 2001, at least seven peer-reviewed longitudinal studies have found that young people with greater exposure to alcohol marketing are more likely to start drinking than their peers.6
In 2003, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine recommended that alcohol companies move toward a proportional 15% maximum for youth (ages 12 to 20) in audiences of their advertising.7 In 2006, 20 state attorneys general echoed that call,8 followed by the U.S. Surgeon General in 2007.9 Earlier CAMY research has estimated that if alcohol companies adopted this standard, they would reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising on television by 20% and decrease their advertising costs by 8%, while maintaining virtually all of their ability to reach 21-to-34- or 21-to-24-year-olds, groups sometimes mentioned as the industry's target audiences for its advertising.10