TV Dictates What Brands Teens Will Drink
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TV Dictates What Brands Teens Will Drink


While it’s not a shock to hear that teens, not to mention all of us, are influenced by what’s on TV, a new study in the scientific journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that there’s also a strong correlation between underage drinkers’ preferences for particular brands based on what’s advertised on their favorite TV shows.

I have to admit that I found this surprising; as someone who was content with any type of booze to get loaded on no matter how nasty the taste (I drank Southern Comfort, Wild Irish Rose and Tango, which combined vodka with Tang), I didn’t realize kids could be so brand loyal when it comes to getting fucked up.

Johnnie Walker Has a Greater Impact than Johnny Damon

By using a cross-sectional, Internet-based survey of a national sample of 1,031 youth between the ages of 13 and 20 who had consumed at least one drink in the past 30 days, researchers made a list of what the kids said they had been drinking lately, and matched it up to the types of booze being advertised on the 20 most popular TV shows that they watched. Although the study did not list specific brands or television shows, sports programming was mentioned as one of the more popular vehicles for youth to begin developing brand romance.

This increased likelihood of brand-specific consumption via TV advertising at least helps me understand why shitty beers like Coors Light and Budweiser are still so popular. But that’s probably better news than the fact that there’s a pronounced increase in the variety of alcohol-related ads; after all, now there are things like fruity flavored vodka and Four Loko—that is, booze that might entice kids who wouldn’t go right for the blended scotch.

Smirnoff Heist

In fact, industry watchdog Alcohol Justice has identified “Alcopops” (also known as “flavored malt beverages”) as one of the gateway drinks for teens. Alcopops, which includes sweetened alcoholic drinks like Sparks, Mike’s Harder Lemonade, Blast, Joose, Four Loko and Jeremiah Weed, tend to pack a much bigger wallop than beer since their alcohol content ranges from 5-12 percent by volume. In a 2012 report, Alcohol Justice reported that they appeal to young people not only because of their taste but also because of their low cost, image and alcohol content. As a result, they’re often the first drink for teenagers (one third of teenage girls ages 12 to 18 and one fifth of teenage boys the same age have tried an alcopops product).

They’re Still Playing by the Rules

Still, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the effect this advertising is having on underage drinkers isn’t a problem. They released a report in March stating that most alcohol companies are legally complying with industry guidelines when it comes to youth advertising. Their study examined marketing by 14 booze manufacturers in a variety of media in 2011, and found that 93.1 percent of media which featured alcohol ads met industry guidelines in place at the time, which was a requirement that 70 percent or more of the media outlet’s audience be 21 or older. And more than 97 percent of individual ads viewed in media met that standard, according to the FTC. “We looked at what the data shows about the audience, and the data is showing pretty good compliance,” said FTC Staff Attorney Janet Evans.

Wow. Hopefully her kids are watching PBS.

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About Author

Johnny Plankton is the pseudonym for a freelance business and comedy writer/editor (and recovering alcoholic) who lives in Boston. He is also a grateful member of America’s largest alcohol recovery “cult” as well as Al-Anon.