Youth and Alcohol Ads: Are Youth Overexposed?

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) repeatedly issues reports asserting that young people under the age of 21 are “overexposed” to alcohol beverage ads.

In its investigation of alcohol marketing and youth, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) emphasized that “CAMY’s data confirm, however, that adults are in fact the primary audience for alcohol advertising.”

The FTC also observed that “CAMY’s report that Hispanic youth reveals that Hispanic teen GRPs (gross rating points*) for spot radio were slightly larger than the GRPs for adults over 21.” That implies that young people are hearing more alcohol ads on radio than are those over 21. However, “when converted to impressions, one can determine that adults over twenty-one received 20 times more impressions than Hispanic youth.”

CAMY wants us to believe that Hispanic youth hear more alcohol ads on radio than do Hispanics adults when their own data show that adults actually hear 20 alcohol ads for each one heard by someone under the legal drinking age!

To learn more about CAMY, visit The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth.

 

*For a definition and detailed explanation of gross rating points and related issues, see the References and Readings section.

References

Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth. Exposure of Hispanic Youth to Alcohol Advertising. Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003.

Federal Trade Commission. Alcohol Marketing and Advertising: A Report to Congress. Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 2003. *

* The Federal Trade Commission notes that

“CAMY is concerned that children are "overexposed" to alcohol advertising, that is, that children are more likely to see television, radio, and print ads for alcohol than adults are. CAMY bases this concern on the fact that the alcohol ad "gross rating points," or "GRPs," for youth are greater than they are for adults in two of the three media (radio and magazines). (GRPs are calculated by multiplying the percentage of a population, such as "adults 21-34," that has the potential to see an ad, times the number of times individuals are so exposed.)

“CAMY's data confirm, however, that adults are in fact the primary audience for alcohol advertising. In national television ads, for example, CAMY found that alcohol ad GRPs for youth were only 64% of the adult GRPs. Id., at Tbl. 3 (for television advertising, adults are defined as those aged 21 or over). CAMY explained that this data showed that "for every two [alcohol] ads seen by adults, youth saw one." CAMY, Television: Alcohol's Vast Adland, at 8 (emphasis added). For alcohol advertising in radio and magazines, the CAMY data shows that adult GRPs were higher than youth GRPs when the adult group is limited to the more relevant young adult segment (21-34). CAMY, Overexposed: Youth a Target of Alcohol Advertising in Magazines at 6 (GRPs of adults aged 21 to 34 higher than GRPs of youth in magazines featuring alcohol ads); CAMY, Radio Daze: Alcohol Ads Tune in Underage Youth at 8 (GRPs of adults aged 21 to 34 higher than GRPs for youth on radio featuring alcohol ads).

“The CAMY reports suggest an approach under which alcohol marketers would, when placing ads, affirmatively assess the impact on the youth market instead of just the adult market. Advertisers currently do not do this. Although assessing the impact of their ad placements on the youth market might allow alcohol marketers to formulate more refined placement practices, it also would have troubling implications in law enforcement and would risk placing in their hands better information for monitoring the youth market. That is, if they gathered such information, it would be hard to distinguish between deliberate targeting of minors and valid attempts to limit minors' incidental exposure.

“Additionally, the GRP data evaluated by CAMY need to be considered along with other data about advertising exposure. GRP data treat audience segments, like youth 12 to 20 and adults 21 to 75, equally. However, the U.S. adult population as a whole is several times larger than the youth population. Thus, advertisers look not only at GRPs, but also at "impressions." Impressions reflect how well a particular audience segment was reached as well as how many consumers are within that audience segment. For example, the young adult population, 21 to 34, is about 50% larger than the youth population, 12 to 20. Even if the GRPs for the two populations are the same, therefore, 50% more impressions reach the adult 21 to 34 population. This distinction is more striking in the case of small audience segments, such as Hispanic youth. CAMY's report about Hispanic youth reveals that Hispanic teens GRPs for spot radio were slightly larger than the GRPs for adults over 21. CAMY, Exposure of Hispanic Youth to Alcohol Advertising (Apr. 20, 2003). When converted to impressions, one can determine that adults over 21 received 20 times more impressions than Hispanic youth. This example shows the potential distortions that can arise from considering the GRP data in isolation.

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