Thursday, January 05, 2006

Advertising Works?

Yesterday i read an article that was featured on by the BBC regarding the success of alcohol advertising on our youth. The study, done by the University of Conneticut I believe, basically came out and said the more kids are exposed to alcohol messages, the more likely they are to drink.

As someone who markets alcohol, I read the study carefully and came to one conclusion: bullshit.

I'm not saying that the study itself was crap, or that the BBC shouldn't have reported on it. What I'm saying is that advertising isn't the problem with underage drinking/alcohol abuse in the US or the UK. If advertising was as powerful as they say, the American auto industry would be just fine.

There are two issues I have, one serious and the other not so serious. I'm not a very serious person, so I'll save that one for last.

According to the trades, according to my peers, and according to the people who seem to be in the know, Advertising is dead. Consumers zone it out, TiVo it, ingore it, don't believe it. Consumers are paying for ad-free content and spending hundreds of dollars to avoid the marketing diarreha that is in our world today. So...if this is the alcohol advertising the exception?

If not, then advertising is not dead and everyone who claims so are simply disgruntaled ex-agency planners preaching doom and gloom. Because everyone I know who works at or has worked at an agency is disgruntaled and usually preaching doom and gloom, I'm not buying it...especially at $2.5MM per Superbowl :30.

The study is missing the target.

Here it is, plain and simple. Kids drink because no one really cares. In fact, kids drink because the ONLY people who care or do anything about it are the brewers and distillers who force themselves to do it.

In all these studies you always see quotes like this one from Don Shenker: "The alcohol industry needs to look more broadly at how it prevents the inappropriate use of alcohol." Note to Don: the alcohol producing industry doesn't sell a drop of liquor to consumers. The large brewers and distillers of the world sell their product to distributors...who sell it to retailers...who sell it to consumers. Sure, advertising dollars come from the top...but the ability to put it into kids hands comes from the bottom. So why isn't there some sort of organization like Parents Against Conveinece Stores, Gas Stations and Supermarkets? Because that would mean addressing the bigger issue.

The bigger issue is that for the most part, society in the US and UK says it's OK for kids to drink.

The UK has a very strong "drinking culture." Somthing I discussed with my boys Tim & Jamie from Guildford this summer. And in both the UK and US people look at youth discovering booze as more comical and "rite of passage" than problematic.

Moreover, you see a lot of parents HELPING their kids to drink before they reach the legal limit. This year several high schools on the East Coast cancelled proms because the parties that the parents were throwing for their kids were getting out of hand. Hell, you can't watch 10 minutes of Laguna Beach on MTV without seeing them drinking...without the care of their parents.

I could go on about this...but if those professors want to find the real cause underage drinking, they should talk to parents and the business owners that make a living off 16-year-olds buying a case of Keystone.

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