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Alcohol Marketing

Youth Exposed to a Lot of Alcohol Marketing Online

posted 11:58 PM EST, Sun May 23, 2010
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Researchers at American University in Washington D.C. say that underage consumers now receive a bombardment of alcohol advertising through diverse digital media platforms; and that by using social networking or sites like YouTube, marketers avoid limitations on access to this important but supposedly ‘protected’ demographic group.

Researchers are calling for federal regulators to step in and take a look at better protecting underage consumers from the alcohol marketing that’s occurring online.

In her report, Alcohol Marketing in the Digital Age, Professor Kathryn Montgomery of American University states that alcohol marketers are using the internet to sell their brands around the clock; using access points that include social media, video, digital music, mobile apps and many more. She says that weak protective regulations, such as having consumers enter their age as over 21 before granting access to a website, allow media savvy teens easy access to this content.

Montgomery states, “We're not calling for any kind of censorship, but we do think these are very serious issues that do require attention by regulators and public-health professionals." Report contributor, Jeff Chester adds, “There's a whole stealth world of marketing that occurs in social-media spaces. It's a completely Wild West environment."

  • Through social media sites like Facebook, alcohol marketers use brand ambassadors who covertly market the brand to others ‘friends’.
  • Heineken has built an online ‘city’ where guests can register for virtual apartments, email, storage and other goodies – and staying logged in for longer periods is rewarded with additional ‘space’ in the city.
  • A video created by Smirnoff has gone viral on YouTube and has now been viewed over 5 million times

Although underage drinking accounts for an estimated 12% to 20% of total alcohol sales, Lisa Hawkins, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council says that alcohol marketers do not target youth through conventional media or emerging media. She says that, “distilled spirits companies adhere to a rigorous set of content and placement guidelines for advertising and marketing materials in all media including online and digital communications channels.” Somewhat contentiously, she adds, "In today's marketplace, online and digital communications channels are used primarily by adults (21 years of age and older) for a key source of information, which makes these platforms responsible and appropriate channels for spirits marketers."

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  • Alcohol: Marketers are using online channels to expose youth to beer and spirit advertising.
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