Effects of Alcohol Advertising on Youth


Alcohol advertising is a form of marketing where there is promotion and dispersal of information about alcohol through the media. This advertising is seen to target the youth more and usually results in more of the youths who see the advertisements to start drinking. In this paper, the issue of advertising alcoholic drinks the messages passed and the effects will be looked into. Additionally, the characteristics of alcohol in the advertisements will be compared to the real effects it has. All these will be in the context of an article by the American Academy of Pediatrics about alcohol advertising. The recommendations of this academy will also be discussed and analyzed. The article by the academy gives several recommendations but only a select few that are easy to implement and are most effective will be looked into for the purposes of this paper.

There have been studies done that showed the responses of youths to advertising. It was found out that the youths are generally drawn to animal and people characters, music, and humorous stories in the alcohol advertisements. This will usually result in more young people getting a tendency to buy alcohol or just drink a certain brand of alcohol though not the specific one advertised as espoused by Kirsh. This means that advertising alcohol leads to youths getting a general feeling that drinking alcohol is okay. Adolescents are more likely to be attracted to alcohol brands that are associated with risky behavior to provide themselves with gratification and a thrill. Others will also be attracted to brands that promise a social status.

It naturally follows, according to Hailer and Pacatte, that if these young people like the alcohol advertisements, they will drink alcohol hoping to get a positive feeling after consumption and affects their attitudes and perceptions.




There are different types of regulation about alcohol advertising in different countries. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, enforces several existing regulations. These regulations aim to reduce the amount of advertising content of an alcoholic nature shown to viewers.

Some media networks also have their own rules about what type of content to show to viewers and have come up with their own standards such as having alcohol advertisements shown only when the audience is made up of 70% and more people who are above the legal drinking limit. Others do not accept any form of vice advertising. Strong self-regulation by the alcohol industry has led to the government having few regulations for the industry. The FTC has in the past carried out studies about the possibility of targeting the youth in alcohol advertisements and especially those less than 21 years of age. The study did not find out any conclusive evidence suggesting that such targeting was happening.

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Portrayal of Alcohol

Portrayals of alcohol are common on television and in film. Music and music videos also show scenes of alcohol use. These portrayals of alcohol are usually largely positive or neutral but rarely do they show the negative effects of alcohol. They associate alcohol with positive attributes or desirable consequences. Very few studies about alcohol advertising and its effects on the youthful viewers of the advertisements have been done. Most of these studies have however given mixed results or inconclusive findings.

Alcohol is advertised in the media through simple advertisements or short videos showing drinkers with some attributes or the alcoholic drink itself has some certain qualities by itself. It can also be shown that drinking a certain brand confers the attributes seen in the advertisement. In another method of indirect advertising through the media, alcohol brands sponsor sporting events as whole or a certain aspect of the sporting event. A participant I a sporting event can also be sponsored. Most notable is the Budweiser sponsorship of cars in racing events such as NASCAR and the F1 series of events. Others include Guinness that claims to offer greatness. Advertising is also seen in some stadiums that have been named after alcohol brands or feature the name of the brand in the sporting events held in the stadium through some agreement for example Coors field, Busch Stadium and Miller park in the USA. The three stadiums are in cities close to the headquarters of the producers of the respective alcoholic drink brands. These advertising methods and campaigns have resulted in cult-like followings for these alcohol brands.

In the advertisements seen on television and even in film, alcohol is shown to confer several desirable attributes to drinkers. To begin with, it is shown to have been made using the perfect method, from perfect or better materials and packaged in the perfect manner or packaging material. The adverts then show sexiness, strength, intelligence, wisdom, high socioeconomic status, camaraderie, and glamour. The attraction is also seen, especially attraction between the sexes. A current example of alcohol portrayed in the media is in the Budweiser advertisements where sentimental feelings and camaraderie after reunion are shown.

This portrayal is wrong and not factual. Alcohol makes the drinker weak, uncoordinated, poor in judgment, causes poor and slow thinking and irresponsible behavior. Young people are taught in school and by guardians that alcohol is bad and harmful to health yet the information from the advertisements contradicts this. This wrong information is what has more appeal to the youth and leads them to get into the drinking habit.

In the media adverts, the prevailing message is that alcohol is good and uplifts. Alcohol is also promoted as a norm rather than an exception. This is a false message since research has shown severally that alcohol consumption has negative effects on the consumer. It is the wrong message to send to the youth who desire to be outgoing and accepted by peers. Viewing of these messages potentially leads the youths to engage in alcohol. In reference to the article by the American academy of pediatrics, the portrayal of substances in the media is very severe and has real effects proven by research. The media is heavily loaded with advertisements about alcohol, which give viewers a belief that it is acceptable to partake in alcoholic drinks drinking.

As proven by the example of an alcohol advert given, the American Academy of Pediatrics is right. It is very unlikely that drinking beer or any other alcoholic drink could lead to a reunion of long-lost friends or anything close to that. If anything, a drunken person would hardly recognize the face of an old friend. The arguments of the AAP are genuinely and well-supported in the given media example.

Guidelines by the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics gives guidelines in their article. These guidelines are aimed at reducing advertisement of alcohol, the way youths see the advertisements and the reduction of the number of alcohol consumers. These recommendations are effective if they were to be implemented such as parents discussing the content they view with their children on television. There is also a suggestion to allocate money to media research so that the effect of advertising gets to be well understood, and a passing of strict laws by Congress to govern advertising of alcohol and other substances in the media.

The most important recommendation by the AAP is that the media industry including film should be sensitive to the audiences of their content and do away with advertisement of alcohol or the depiction of alcohol consumption as well as the films. This single recommendation by itself if applied would solve the problem finally. It however remains a dream in most of its probability since these advertisements are a valued source of income for television and other mainstream media.

The recommendations given are however important in that they could help the nation in curbing the problem of alcohol consumption. The recommendations are simple and quite straightforward. They also do not rely much on government support but on professionals working with parents, guardians, and other bodies to offer guidance to their youth and restrict access to improper content over the media.


Alcohol is portrayed as a good item and its activity as an ok activity to engage in by the media. The biggest viewers of these advertisements are the youth and their easy gullibility makes them believe this and start taking alcohol. The media need to be properly regulated to stop these harmful advertising habits or be forced to depict both the positive and negative effects of substance and alcohol use.

Young people should be helped to regard alcohol as being a neutral substance. If alcohol is demonized, it will make it desirable to youths who mostly want to rebel against authority. What should be encouraged is responsible behavior and that abuse of alcohol is inexcusable and not humorous or acceptable. To this effect, responsible drinking campaigns should be held to sensitize the youth and even older drinkers on the evils of excessive alcohol consumption and emphasize the importance of drinking responsibly.

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