Underage viewers

Study: Magazine advertising for alcoholic products more likely to reach youth

Sept 25, 2002 - A new study finds that magazine advertising for beer and alcohol is more likely to reach America's youth of ages 12 to 20 than it is to reach adults.


The study by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University found that beer marketers delivered 45% more magazine advertising to youth than to adults in 2001. Advertising for distilled spirits reached 27% more youth, while wine advertising reached 58% more.

"You can make your choice to advertise so that it effectively reaches the legal-age population without overexposing youth to alcohol advertising," said Jim O'Hara, the center executive director.

A September 1999 Federal Trade Commission report on the alcohol industry's advertising and marketing practices urged the industry to raise the standards to reduce underage alcohol ad exposure. The center has asked the FTC to reopen its inquiry into whether the industry is doing a good job protecting children from exposure to alcohol advertising.

Industry officials discounted the center's findings. "This new study is not a real study; it's a piece of advocacy," said Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute in Washington, D.C. "We do have a voluntary set of guidelines and it's adhered to almost to the letter by each of our members."

Frank Coleman, senior vice president of the Washington D.C.-based Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, blasted the study, saying it's "sensationalizing a serious issue."

The report also found:

  • Marketers of malternatives, such as Smirnoff Ice, delivered 60 percent more advertising to youth than to adults.

  • Wine was the second leading alcohol advertising category in magazines.

  • Underage youth saw nearly as much advertising as young adults ages 21 to 34. Adults ages 35 and older were a distant third audience.

  • The study found 10 magazines with a youth audience of more than 25% accounted for nearly one-third of all alcohol advertising expenditures in measured magazines in 2001. Those magazines include Vibe, Spin, Rolling Stone, Allure, Car and Driver, Maxim, Glamour, Motor Trend, In Style and Sports Illustrated.

  • More than half of the money spent on alcohol magazine advertising was in 24 magazines with youth audiences.