While the Super Bowl itself may be over, football fans and television viewers alike can still watch and experience the remnants of the grand annual tradition for the next half year with the commercials. Although the Super Bowl is known for its football, commercials touting various beer, liquor and alcohol companies have made their home there. On one hand, the ads prove to be funny and prime targets for consumers, but the alcohol ads come at a risk for children and teens watching them.
Addressing this issue, GT Students Managing Alcohol Risk at Tech (GT SMART) hosted the Alcohol Marketing and Youth program in the Student Services Building on Jan. 31. The event drew out a combined audience of Tech students and local parents. Organized by project director Marsha Brinkley and other GT SMART members, the event introduced and explained the current and growing concern over advertisements and marketing in the alcohol industry to under-aged drinkers, especially children from ages 12 to 20.
“Most adults think that underage drinking is no big deal, rites of passage, but what lots of people don’t know is that a lot of younger kids are doing it,“ said featured guest speaker Nicole Holt.
Holt spoke about the past, current and future status of marketing laws concerning high-risk products such as alcohol and tobacco found in the magazine, radio and television industries. Having a Master’s Degree in Continuing Education and Organizational Development, Holt currently serves as the Executive Director of Texans Standing Tall (TST), one of six directors working for federal alcohol marketing review.
TST is a grassroots organization advocating a change in federal, state and local laws about alcohol awareness and has served as a field director of the Center of Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) in Washington D.C. In addition to those roles, Holt has worked in those organizations to develop goals to sustain alcohol marketing in the United States and to promote a statewide coalition to CAMY and TST’s initiatives.
“The marketing becomes a really good tool to look at. It is an important piece of the puzzle,“ Holt said. “Because of their placement, a lot of alcohol ads go unnoticed by parents, teachers, those who are in the business of trying to protect you. And it’s scary that they’re just placed where another person might see them at.“
Holt provided examples of various magazine and television campaigns familiar with many parents, students, and consumers alike. While even some of the parents in the audience chuckled at a shown commercial for Budweiser or Cuervo, Holt underlined that this was the problem with these ads.
Such ads highly target children through their content, humor and placement. Holt provided an example from a magazine campaign of a pink Razztini or “alcopop“ in a glass resembling a lollipop, with a Pixie stick end. These ads feature parties with young people, dating or business success, sex or humorous circumstances. Although these ads are explicitly written against federal and Congressional code for the Beer Institute and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, alcohol and liquor companies have lessened the strictness of these codes (usually regulated by the Federal Trade Commission) and found loopholes around them.
“[Alcohol and liquor companies] know what appeals to kids. They use parties, they use fun anecdotes and ridiculous crawling on the floor behavior. They know that cartoons and video games, they know that sweet drinks… they also know that risky behavior, things that sell risks alarm young people… Additionally young people have to look less with how they place,“ Holt said.
Not to mention, these guidelines also include audiences of mostly young adult age groups as well. For example, alcohol companies are supposed to place ads on magazines, television or radio where at least 70% of the audience is of legal drinking age, but these media include magazines such as Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Entertainment Weekly, and television shows Smallville, CSI and Desperate Housewives, where nearly 81% of youth can view such ads. Youths are increasingly being exposed to cable television and internet ads, which are not as controlled by congressional legislation.
While CAMY in conjunction with Georgetown University has monitored alcohol marketing in the United States for five years now (in comparison to the original instated three years), CAMY’s run and its funding ended as of December 2007. The organization will release their last report within the next few weeks, yet the industry will be missing such a large awareness organization. Moreover, Holt recommended that students and parents join together and take action against increasing marketing towards youth by working within the community and alerting local officials.
For interested students, Holt recommended that students research more concerning the Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act (The STOP Act) and the Surgeon General Call to Action 2007. For more information concerning CAMY, resources are provided on www.camy.org, and for more information concerning GT SMART, check out www.gtsmart.gatech.edu.