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Rise in advertising spend has not resulted in elevated consumption in the US

In research released by the University of Texas at Austin, it was found that alcohol advertising spending in the US has gone up exponentially since 1971, with an increase of more than 400 percent. Meanwhile, per capita consumption has remained relatively the same.

The perception that advertising increases consumption exists. However, the findings indicate that there is either no relationship or a weak one between advertising and alcohol sales. Therefore, advertising restrictions or bans with the purpose of reducing consumption may not have the desired effect. There was however, evidence of the notion that advertising does influence consumer brand preference and loyalty. “Over this time period, beer sales have exhibited a downward trend since the early 1990s, while wine and liquor have increased their share of total alcohol sales. This is despite large increases in advertising expenditures across all three categories of alcohol,” the study states. The study further concludes that the changes exhibited in alcohol consumption over the last 40 years are due not to an increase in alcohol advertising, but rather to changes in demography, taxation and income levels.

Some cities in the US have recently passed bans on alcohol advertising. Philadelphia, for example, now prohibits alcohol advertising on municipal property, and San Francisco prohibits alcohol advertising on public transportation. Los Angeles also recently banned alcohol advertising from public transit in order to avoid underage exposure to alcohol ads. In addition to these restrictions, most alcohol marketers have self-imposed restrictions on advertising in order to promote responsible consumption.

This research suggests that a better alternative to imposing restrictions on alcohol advertising is to spend more time and resources on informing the public on the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption. “Instead, a more logical alternative would be to communicate as much information as possible to the public about the subject and encourage all viewpoints so our society makes an autonomous, rational choice regarding alcohol consumption,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Gary Wilcox of the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations. Source: Beer, wine, or spirits? Advertising’s impact on four decades of category sales. Gary B. Wilcox, Eun Yeon Kang & Lindsay A. Chilek. International Journal of Advertising: The Review of Marketing Communications. 17 Mar 2015.


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