Kids In The Crosshairs Of Big Booze
While the liquor industry claims its voluntary advertising standards adequately protect kids from liquor advertising, those standards are rendered useless by the reality of kids’ television viewing patterns, according to CSPI. The polling data indicate that millions of kids are watching television when ads for alcopops are broadcast. Considering how new to the airwaves those ads are, kids’ unaided recall of ads for drinks like Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Silver is astonishingly high.
"Even if hard liquor ads aren’t running on network television, ads for Smirnoff Ice, Stolichnaya Citrona, Skyy Blue, Captain Morgan Gold, and Bacardi Silver are, and those ads put liquor brand names right in kids’ faces," said George Hacker, Director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project. "Marketers position these fruity drinks as kids’ first cocktails. They’re designed to lead kids straight to the parent brands’ hard stuff."
CSPI commissioned an independent polling firm, Global Strategy Group, to survey 750 12- to 18-year olds. Among the survey’s findings:
Liquor-industry guidelines specify that ads should target audiences that are primarily adult. But many of the programs carrying alcopop ads clearly have large youth audiences:
"In unguarded moments, liquor- and beer-industry insiders have confessed that these drinks are designed to appeal to young, entry-level drinkers unaccustomed to the taste of alcohol," Hacker said. "Our survey shows that kids think they’re being turned on to liquor, and not malt beverages. That must be music to the liquor industry’s ears."
"The beauty of this category is that it brings in new drinkers, people who really don’t like the taste of beer," Marlene Coulis, Anheuser-Busch’s new products director told Advertising Age. Bacardi Silver is Anheuser-Busch’s entry into the alcopop niche. According to Advertising Age, booze companies spent an estimated $77 million advertising alcopops on television in 2001. In 2002, the industry is expected to spend up to $450 million on this sector.
Some, like Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, say it’s time for Congress and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take a second, longer look at whether the industry’s voluntary standards are adequately shielding kids from liquor advertising—or whether those "standards" are just providing a public-relations gloss for the industry’s efforts to recruit the next generation of drinkers from the ranks of America’s youth.
"Voluntary alcohol advertising standards are a bust," Blumenthal said. "More alcopop ads are reaching more kids— and resonating. If the liquor industry can't police itself—and stop persistent purposeful appeals to children—action by the FTC and Congress will be necessary."
Note: For a detailed summary of CSPI’s poll results, log on towww.cspinet.org.To interview CSPI Alcohol Policies Project director George A. Hacker, contact Stephanie Grasmick at 202-777-8316.
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