Liquor Ads Still Common in Magazines Popular with Kids

WASHINGTON -- About 45% of the magazine advertising for beer, wine, and "alcopop" appears in publications with 15% to 30% of their circulation among adolescents, according to a national analysis.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3 -- About 45% of the magazine advertising for beer, wine, and "alcopop" appears in publications with 15% to 30% of their circulation among adolescents, according to a national analysis.

Alcopops, the premixed, fruity drinks such as hard lemonade, were the biggest spenders, according to researchers who reviewed liquor ads in 143 national magazines and reported their findings in the Aug. 3 issue of Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report.

The study was the first analysis of the liquor industry's compliance with a 2003 voluntary agreement to a marketing code that restricted advertising in national magazines in which readers ages 12 to 20 were more than 30% of the audience, said David H. Jernigan, Ph.D., of Georgetown University, and colleagues from Virtual Media Resources in Natick, Mass., and the CDC.

Based on their analysis the industry has been very complaint with the more than 30% threshold. From 2001 through 2005 -- years that sandwich the liquor industry agreement -- alcohol ads in magazines with that target demographic dropped from 382 ads to just nine.

Yet, although the absolute number of advertisements in magazines that claim youth as 15% to 30% of their market declined from 1,485 in 2001 to 1,272 in 2005, that decline tracked an overall decline in magazine advertising.

So, by 2005 alcohol ads accounted for a greater proportion of all magazine advertising -- 43.9% versus 41.1% in 2001.

And, as the MMWR editors pointed out in an editorial note, during that same period "alcohol advertising on television increased 41% for youth."

Of 250 national magazines reviewed, 143 carried alcohol advertising during the study period -- 2001 to 2005 -- and those ads accounted for more than 90% of national print advertising by the industry.

Data on advertising were obtained from TNS Media Intelligence, which monitors advertising in 394 magazines. Readership demographics were obtained from population-based surveys conducted by Mediamark Research, Inc., which reports readership estimates for 250 national magazines.

The authors excluded alcohol advertisements in which the primary focus was responsible drinking.

Among the findings:

  • Of the 143 magazines that carried alcohol advertising, 36.7% claimed adolescents as 15% to 30% of their target market and 6.3% said more than 30% of their readers were age 12 to 20.
  • In 2005, alcohol ads accounted for 0.3% of advertising in magazines with youth readership of more than 30%, down from 10.6% in 2001.
  • Of the 201 alcohol brands that advertised in magazines in 2005, 36 advertised only in magazines in which 15% to 30% of the readers were underage and 38 brands placed more than half of their magazine advertisements in those publications.
  • During 2001-2005 youth exposure to alcohol advertising in magazines decreased by 46.9%.

The MMWR editors cautioned that the report had several limitations including the lack of data on local, regional, or Internet advertisements, and the fact that an estimated 10% of alcohol advertisements appeared in magazines not included in the Mediamark database. Finally, data collected by survey are subject to inherent limitations.

But, the editors concluded, the findings indicate that the industry should change its marketing policy to eliminate advertising in magazines with 15% to 30% underage readership, a threshold recommended by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.