Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Marketing Savvy: Advertising Alcohol

A story in Monday’s online Wall Street Journal reports on a study funded by the NIH to examine the correlation between alcohol advertising and consumption by young people aged 15-26. The conclusion: there is a positive correlation. Each additional dollar spent on advertising generated an additional 3 percent in consumption. And in my estimation, the consumption was fairly significant, averaging 38.5 drinks per month. The policy prescription: the industry should target ads to contexts where adults are present. (But note: 21-26 year-olds are nominally adults.)

The survey was done in 1999-2001, which makes the results somewhat dated. Today, we do have the technology to target adults online. Evidence of this was actually close at hand: the advertisement appearing next to this story was for Macallan Single Malt Highland Scotch Whiskey. (Query: was the placement tied to the alcohol topic in this story?)

I would guess that mostly adults are reading the WSJ. (Where are the Alex Keatons of this generation?) I also doubt that young people are significant consumers of single malt scotch. But the website had something to say about this: before entering, you had to disclose not only your age, but also your country of residence. Being a playful fellow, I chose Saudi Arabia and 1962 (a half truth). It denied access, I suppose much to the delight of the Mullahs. But then I simply changed the country box to the United States, and it welcomed me as a stateside consumer.

It is possible that these questions were there just for show. Technology exists to determine my country of origin based on my IP address, though this is not always foolproof. However, the company did make an effort to behave responsibly with regard to their ads, including a limitation to keep them out of countries where alcohol – even single malt scotch – is taboo. (For the record, I lack expertise on the quality of this single malt scotch – I suppose much to the delight of my liver.)


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