“More Alcohol Ads Lead to More Consumption”

Consider this:

  • Washington , D.C. has more police and more crime per capita than other cities of similar size. Therefore, police presence causes crime.
  • Consumption of ice cream increases during the summer and so does the number of people who drown. Therefore, eating ice cream causes drowning.
  • And the more alcohol commercials there are, the more young people drink. Therefore, alcohol ads cause young people to begin drinking.

It should be obvious that these are all highly questionable conclusions. But apparently they aren’t questionable to some folks who report that young people who remember seeing alcohol ads are more likely to drink. They then jump to the conclusion that seeing alcohol ads causes young people to drink. In making their gigantic leap of faith, they conveniently ignore evidence to the contrary. For example:

  • People who want to buy a new car tend to pay more attention to auto ads. People who want to buy a new house tend to pay more attention to real estate ads. And those who want to drink probably pay more attention to alcohol ads.
  • Expenditures for alcohol ads have little or no relationship to alcohol consumption.
  • Australian children who remember alcohol ads tend to be less, rather than more, likely to drink later.

Research on this subject has been conducted for decades by governments, health agencies, and universities around the world. The result? No good evidence that alcohol ads cause non-drinkers to begin drinking or causes drinkers to consume more.

Then why do alcohol beverage producers advertise? They advertise to increase their market share. Both research and experience has demonstrated that effective advertisers can increase a producer’s share of the market, which it gains at the expense of others, who lose market share. However, research consistently demonstrates that advertising does not increase overall alcohol consumption.

The authors of the attention-grabbing report need to go back and take Research 101.


  • Waldman, Hilary. Study links advertising, youth drinking: More alcohol ads lead to more consumption, researchers say. Hartford Courant, January 3, 2006.

Filed Under: Advertising