The pilot study by Jernigan and others (2017), focused on digital and social media and compared young people with adults on the amount of alcohol marketing they recalled seeing. Youth reported greater exposure to alcohol marketing  and promotional content than adults in most media, including on the Internet. Furthermore, youth reported greater engagement with alcohol marketing online. This stresses the need to assure compliance with voluntary industry standards and to improve monitoring of alcohol marketing, especially regarding youth and the new media online.

A sample of 1,192 underaged youths and 1,124 adults completed an online survey, with questions about alcohol marketing in online as well as traditional media. A distinction in the questions was made between exposure (how often) and content (type) of alcohol marketing, and engagement with alcohol marketing.

Youth reported exposure to alcohol marketing in the last month was almost twice as much as exposure of adults on the Internet (29.7% versus 16.8%, p < 0.001). Youth interacted with alcohol-related online content in greater proportions than adults, such as celebrities using alcohol, celebrities wearing alcohol-branded items, pictures of celebrities showing the negative effect(s) of using alcohol, pictures of friends/peer using alcohol and pictures of friends/peers showing the negative effect(s) of using alcohol. Regarding the content of alcohol marketing, the difference between youth and adults was the most significant with content related to celebrities and alcohol.

The results show that youth were significantly, and twice as likely than adults to see or hear alcohol marketing on the TV, radio, billboards and especially the Internet. They also show that youth were more likely than adults to interact with online content of alcohol marketing.

These results are concerning, since youth in particular are vulnerable and susceptible to alcohol marketing, and age-gating on digital media are not that effective.

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