Liquor Industry Portrays Drinking as Romantic and Cool and Teens Buy it

Researchers at Michigan State University tracked the dissemination of liquor advertising, measured public opinion, and examined the impact on liquor consumption over a two-year period from 1997 to 1999.

The liquor industry had a long-standing voluntary ban on TV advertising for hard liquor. In 1996 the industry formally rescinded the ban, paving the way for television advertising campaigns on dozens of local stations and two cable networks.

Key Findings

  • Television advertising expenditures for hard liquor increased from $3 million in 1996 to $15 million in 1998.

  • Adults surveyed in 1999 supported a total ban on TV liquor ads by a 49 to 40 percent margin.

  • Most young adults and teenagers say TV liquor ads show them that drinking is romantic; only a few gain the impression that liquor is highly impairing.

  • Liquor companies increased billboard advertising by 40 percent from 1997 to 1998.

  • For college students, billboard exposure correlates moderately with liquor drinking frequency and quantity consumed.