Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drop in Alcohol Consumption Shrinks Dollars Spent on Ads Consumer Groups Want More Restrictions on Ads Aimed at Young Adults

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Drop in Alcohol Consumption Shrinks Dollars Spent on Ads Consumer Groups Want More Restrictions on Ads Aimed at Young Adults

Article excerpt

FAR fewer beer and wine commercials are airing on American television these days.

Industry analysts and consumer groups attribute this to the fact that people are drinking less, particularly 18- to 30-year-olds (the group that traditionally drinks the most). As a result, alcoholic-beverage makers have less money to allocate to TV ads.

Despite the drop, a debate is brewing over whether alcohol ads really have an effect on young people, and how much they should be regulated.

Spending for alcoholic-beverage advertising declined in the United States by a dramatic 46.5 percent between 1986 and '93, according to a recent study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a public-interest group in Washington.

This "massive retreat has paralleled modest reductions in alcohol consumption and the incidence of related problems, particularly among young people," the study finds.

Alcohol-related vehiclecrash deaths dropped from 24,045 in 1986 to under 17,500 in '93, as well as reported binge drinking among high school seniors and college students, the study states.

"People are not drinking as much as before, and so the companies have less advertising money to spend," says an analyst with Dean Witter in New York, who follows the alcoholic-beverage industry. He adds that people are more fitness conscious today and thus do not drink as much.

As a result, the alcohol industry has reallocated funds to sponsorships and promotions, including price discounting, rebates, contests, and concert tours, says George Hacker, head of CSPI.

The CSPI study asks Congress to ban ads directed at young people and heavy drinkers, require ads to include warnings about the risks of alcohol consumption, and require broadcasters to balance alcohol ads with messages promoting abstinence.

Liquor advertisers recoup more than $750 million of their ad funds through tax deductions - a practice Mr. Hacker says he wants Congress to stop.

But interest in Congress to curb alcohol advertising has waned, he says. And broadcasters and alcoholic-beverage companies, he adds, are doing all they can to block any legislative action.

Alcoholic-beverage interests still spend $2 billion a year on media ads, especially on TV, but also on radio, print, and outdoor billboards, Hacker adds.

About $7 out of every $10 spent on alcoholic-beverage advertising comes from beer marketers, according to another recent study. …

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