FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, June 26, 1995

CONTACT: George Hacker 202/332-9110 x343

New CSPI Study Details Dramatic Decline

in Alcoholic-Beverage Advertising

46% Drop in Ads Yields Unintended "Double Dip" as Alcohol-Related Social Problems Decline Simultaneously

Without fanfare and with little public notice, media advertising of alcoholic beverages in the United States has been dropping precipitously -- a 46% reduction between 1986 and 1993 -- according to a new study released today by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

This advertising decline has been accompanied by a parallel, though more modest, reduction in both alcohol consumption and the incidence of several major alcohol-related social problems, from alcohol-related traffic fatalities to binge drinking by high school students.

"We've always known that advertising works," commented George Hacker, director of CSPI's Alcohol Policies Project and author of the study. "Now we see that not advertising pays dividends, too. Whether or not this 'double dip' is a direct case of cause and effect, common sense tells us that it's more than coincidence."

CSPI's new 24-page report, "Double Dip: The Simultaneous Decline of Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Problems in the United States," reviews and summarizes a wide range of industry and government data for the period 1986-93.

Among the key findings:

This decrease held true across all major product lines, including beer (down 40%), liquor (41%), and wine (54%). Advertising of wine coolers (now referred to as "low-alcohol refreshers" in industry parlance) plummeted by 88%.

Had ad spending remained at its 1986 level, Hacker noted, today we would be seeing nearly twice as many messages glorifying alcohol consumption.

Not surprisingly, alcoholic-beverage producers fell in the rankings of leading national advertisers, shrinking from seven among the top one hundred to just four. According to Advertising Age, Anheuser-Busch, the world's largest brewer and biggest alcohol advertiser, dropped from being the nation's seventh-largest advertiser to 24th place during the eight-year period studied.

On the media side of the equation, broadcasters bore the brunt of the advertising cuts but apparently suffered little economic damage, as broadcast advertising revenue soared from $30 billion to $40 billion (in actual dollars) over the same time period.

What's behind this dramatic decline in media advertising by the alcohol industry? CSPI's Hacker points to a constellation of factors: the advent of a national minimum legal drinking age of 21, eliminating millions of potential customers; a scarcity of advertising dollars due to widespread price discounting; diversion of advertising funds to "event" marketing such as sporting events and concert tours; concern over growing public criticism of alcohol advertising; and allocation of industry resources to finance the purchase of international alcoholic-beverage producers.

"Whatever the reasons," concludes Hacker, "this is a welcome trend."

Nonetheless, alcohol advertising remains pervasive and many of the industry's remaining ads continue to target young people and heavy drinkers. CSPI's report concludes by calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to commence a comprehensive investigation of alcohol advertising and promotional practices, focusing in particular on the extent to which advertising encourages consumption among young people and heavy drinkers.

The report also calls on Congress to eliminate the tax deduction for alcohol advertising expenses; ban advertising directed at or reaching large numbers of young people or heavy drinkers; require specific warning messages on remaining alcohol advertising; and require broadcasters to balance alcohol ads with effective messages to promote abstinence among young people and oppose heavy drinking among adults.

Copies of "Double Dip: The Simultaneous Decline of Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Problems in the United States" are available for $5 each by writing to CSPI - DD, 1875 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20005.

Based in Washington, D.C., the Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, consumer-advocacy organization specializing in food, nutrition, and public-health issues. CSPI accepts no government or corporate funds. Its work is supported largely by the more than 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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To obtain a copy of the study, send your name, address, and telephone number to tsiegman@cspinet.org. You will be billed $5.00 for each copy requested, plus $3.50 s/h.

To read the Executive Summary of the study, click here.