Recruiting the “Heavy-Using Loyalists of Tomorrow”: An Analysis of the Aims, Effects and Mechanisms of Alcohol Advertising, Based on Advertising Industry Evaluations

Abstract: Restricting alcohol advertising and marketing is a cost-effective intervention for reducing alcohol harms. However, the alcohol industry maintains that advertising does not affect consumption, claiming that its purpose is to help consumers choose brands, it is not aimed at young people, it only promotes “responsible consumption”, and any relationships with consumption are not causal. We reviewed 39 case studies (1981–2016) published by the advertising industry, which evaluate the effects of alcohol advertising campaigns. We used these to examine these industry claims. 30/39 (77%) of the case studies mentioned increasing/maintaining market share as an objective, or used this to assess the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Most (25/39, 64%) found that campaigns increased consumption-related outcomes. Some campaigns targeted women, and heavy drinkers (e.g., Stella Artois lager, Famous Grouse whisky). Campaigns often (13/39, 33%) targeted younger drinkers. These data show that advertising does influence market share. Other effects reported in the case studies include changing the consumer profile towards: younger drinkers, women, new/lapsed drinkers, and heavy drinkers. They also present evidence of a causal relationship between advertising and consumption. In conclusion, this analysis, based on industry data, presents significant new evidence on (i) the effects of alcohol advertising on consumption-related outcomes, and (ii) the mechanisms by which it achieves those effects.

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