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Cable TV Shows Watched by Teens Show Far More Alcohol Ads

Cable TV Shows Watched by Teens Show Far More Alcohol Ads
© Photo Credit: Aaron Escobar
Although the alcohol industry pledges to avoid showing alcohol ads during children’s programming, the shows that teens like on cable TV show far more alcohol ads than the shows teens don’t watch.

The alcohol industry self regulates its marketing practices and pledges to avoid showing ads for beer wine or sprits to TV audiences that contain more than 30% underage viewers, such as children’s programming. Yet many cable TV programs widely watched by adult viewers also attract a substantial teen market share. Researchers funded by the CDC looked to evaluate how well alcohol industry self regulation was working and to see what effect, if any, teen viewership had on the types of alcohol ads shown.

Researchers used Nielsen Media Research data to gain demographic information on the audience that watched every one of 600 000 commercials for wine, beer, alcopops or liquor shown on cable TV between 2001 and 2006. Cable TV stations show nearly all alcohol ads presented on television.

They found that:

  1. Television shows that had a wider teen audience had more alcohol ads that TV shows with an exclusively adult audience
  1. A one percentage increase in the numbers of teens watching a show led to a 7% increase in beer advertisements, a 15% jump in liquor ads and a 22% increase in spots for alcopops.
  1. The number of alcohol ads seen by teens per year increased over the 5 year course of the study
  1. Tellingly, a 1% increase in teen viewership led to an 8% decline in wine ads

The more teenagers watching a program, the greater the numbers of alcopops ads, (soda-pop like alcoholic drinks) but more teens led to fewer wine ads, a drink presumably targeted at an older audience.

 Study leader, Paul Chung, out of UCLA, was quick to point out that their study was never intended to learn if alcohol advertisers were, “intentionally overexposing adolescents," but said that “the ultimate effect of their advertising strategies, intentional or not, appears to be greater exposure than might be expected if adults were the sole targets of ads."

David Jernigan of The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, commented on the study results by condemning industry practices, saying, “This research suggests that ads are aimed at groups that include a disproportionate number of teens and that the alcohol industry's voluntary self-monitoring is not working to reduce adolescent exposure to ads."

The study can be read online at The American Journal of Public Health

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