Custom «Alcohol Advertising» Essay Paper Sample

Alcohol Advertising

Can advertising be good for promoting competition and adding value to consumer products—and also bad for us? For many critics, the answer is “Yes!” They see modern advertising as a device that makes people drink and eat too much, smoke cigarettes, and even use drugs. It is impossible to escape the negative effects of alcohol or tobacco because of the heavy advertising in the modern society, the argument goes. Many critics argue that we are stuck with advertiser-driven mass media that are, in the end, bad for us. This paper, by referring to both side of the debate on alcohol advertising, argues that this practice should be sustained as it has little to do with urging people to become alcoholics and, on the contrary, promotes responsible drinking among individuals and drives competition among companies operating on this market.

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For those who defend alcohol advertising on legal and economic grounds, the critique of commercial culture is probably the most difficult one to discuss and fight. We are not saying that there are no possible counter-arguments. We are saying that such reasons are less likely to persuade critics of alcohol advertising. Regarding issues of legality or economic efficiency, both sides share some common features and have common goals. If one asserts that the use of alcohol advertising makes it eas­ier for a firm to establish a monopoly, it is possible for another to employ hard evidence to disprove that assertion. But if a person states his or her belief that there are too many alcoholic beverages’ ads on television, it is difficult to challenge such a belief by offering real evidence or arguing that ad­vertising helps consumers obtain what they want.

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Alcohol has a long history with advertising. Also, alcohol has been the subject of much debate in favor of advertising bans, with supporters stating that less advertis­ing would mean less alcohol abuse and its negative consequences. Advocates of pro­hibition in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw advertising bans as a useful first step toward their ultimate goal. Later activists relied on social and political pressure to limit the marketing practices of beer, wine, and liquor makers. In an attempt to pacify its critics, the hard liquor industry limited its advertising to the print media. It was only later that an end came to ban on radio and television advertising. Alcohol producers began to place ads at large supermarkets, though the alcohol makers found it difficult to get broadcast networks to accept their ads.

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Beer and wine had, of course, never been subjected to such limi­tations. Beer ads became popular on television, generat­ing some of the most memorable phrases. Numerous attempts to get fed­eral regulators to ban all alcohol advertising were not successful. Hence, crit­ics of alcohol advertising changed their strategy to focus on the issue of underage drinkers. These people began to argue that advertising should be banned in all magazines and newspapers that had younger people as their primary audience. This approach is not valid, however. On the one hand, the youth-oriented media do not accept alcohol ads. On the other hand, magazines, radio stations, and TV networks with many teens in the audience attract even larger audiences of twenty- and thirty-year olds who are prime targets for such advertising.

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An effective argument for restricting or abolishing the advertising of alcoholic bev­erages cannot be based simply on good intentions. It is important to note that alcohol abuse is not the same as alco­hol use. Moderate consumption of alcohol is good and, according to the most recent medical literature, may offer some health benefits by reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and mental deterioration in old age. Therefore, totally banning alcohol consumption is neither a necessary step in the fight against alcohol abuse nor an appropriate test of whether advertising bans might serve the public interest. There seems to be no hard evidence whatsoever to suggest that alcohol abuse is linked to advertising or would result in its absence. Some critics claim that there is not a single study that connects advertising with an increase in alco­hol abuse.

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More generally, the notion that advertising bans would reduce overall alcohol consumption seems questionable. Most research on the subject has concluded that there is no statistically significant link. During the period of alcohol prohibition at the beginning of the 20-th century, the consumption of alcohol actually increased, despite the total ban of alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, most restrictions are problematic for many reasons. It is easier to regulate the advertising of alcohol, simultaneously promoting anti-drinking advertising. In other words, using advertising as the form of public service announcements about liability or counter ads against excessive drinking would be an ef­fective way to promote responsible drinking.

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Finally, alcoholic beverages have been a part of most human cul­tures throughout history. In the modern world, there are many cultural and social factors that create many conditions that influence how people try their first drink. Advertisers certainly hope to promote certain brands or to let consumers know about innovative or lower-priced new products. But it is not likely that they play a significant role in making people drink. Surely, they do not mean to urge individuals to abuse alcohol. One prediction about the effects of an advertising ban can be stated with confidence, however: it would likely help large beverage companies protect their market shares against small liquor producers, as previous regulations helped large tobacco companies against smaller ones. Consumers would clearly be the big losers from a total or partial ban on alcohol advertising.

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