Alcohol advertising--and children's exposure to that advertising--saw historic increases between 2001 and 2005, while exposure to industry-sponsored "responsibility" messages remained at consistently low levels.
That's according to a just-released study from Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing & Youth (CAMY).
The study of over a million alcohol ads over the 2001-2005 time period concluded that young people were 239 times more likely to see an ad selling alcohol than a PSA, and 32 times more likely to see an alcohol ad than a PSA about drinking and driving or responsible drinking.
While alcohol companies spent $4.9 billion on TV ads between 2001 and 2005, the study found they spent just $104 million on "responsibility" advertisements. Of the 109 companies advertising alcohol on TV during that time period, only eight companies aired the responsibility PSA's and advertising.
On the upside for alcohol advertisers, more aired "responsibility" ads in 2005 than in any previous year--$24 million worth by 19 brands.
CAMY calls alcohol the leading drug problem among youth and points out that Congress has asked the Department of Health and Human Services "to monitor and report on rates of youth exposure to advertising and other media messages that encourage and discourage alcohol use."
Adonis Hoffman, Senior VP and counsel for the American Association of Advertising Agencies, defended the industry responsibility messages, saying that they are part of a larger effort that goes far beyond TV spots.
"Responsibility advertising by alcohol companies plays an important part in our overall messaging to youth that underage drinking is intolerable," Hoffman told B&C. "These ads, when combined with messages from parents, schools, churches, coaches, and peers, reinforce the notion that responsible consumption is everybody's business."
Dan Jaffe, executive VP of government relations, for the Association of National Advertisers, also took aim at the study, saying it was "extremely inadequate and distorted."
"It ignores the multimillions of dollars being spent on these issues by The Ad Council and the Century Council, which are major public service campaigns that impact these issues."
"CAMY acts as if advertising is the only or primary method of responding to these challenges," Jaffe says. "The alcohol beverage community has numerous programs beyond advertising directed to these questions and that go far beyond advertising. They have dedicated substantial funding to these community based programs."
Echoing Hoffman on the point about looking beyond the small screen, Jaffe says: "When you look at the total picture rather than the limited and skewed snapshot that CAMY has produced, there is far more positive effort being put forward than you would ever guess from CAMY’s slanted analysis."