Beer Commercials Influence Teen Drinking Behavior
Who can forget that adorable lost puppy who finds his way home after his horse friends protect him from a wolf? Even people who didn’t watch the Super Bowl last night probably have at least heard about the successful advertisement for Budweiser beer. Ranked number one among last night’s Super Bowl commercials, the heartwarming advertisement appeals to a wide audience of diehard football fans and those just interested in the half-time show. The precious animals and the intriguing storyline of a lost-and-then-found pet also strongly appeals to teens and young children.
A panelist who rated the ads for USA TODAY’s Ad Meter explained why she voted for the Budweiser puppy dog commercial as her favorite: “I have my own little dog, and seeing the Clydesdales save that sweet, precious little angel brought a slight tear to my eye.” Many kids, teens and young adults likely have had a similar experience, relating to a moment when they either lost their own cat or dog or imagined losing their beloved pet.
What does the puppy dog story have to do with beer? Absolutely nothing.
Yet, by making the advertisement memorable, people will automatically equate the warm feelings of a rescued puppy dog to drinking a Budweiser beer. This emotional relationship to its beer is exactly what Anheuser-Busch marketers want their audience to feel.
Similarly, the real-life Pac-Man commercial creates a fantasy in which a young man gets to actually be Pac-Man after drinking a Bud Light. The party and the video game themes are designed to attract the demographics who typically enjoy these activities most — teens and young adults.
Study Links Advertisement Appeal to Teen Drinking Behavior
Because the Super Bowl is the most watched event on television,
corporations are willing to pay extraordinary prices to create and air a commercial during the game. This year, companies paid up to $4.5
million a minute ust for the airtime. They paid millions more to develop
their advertisements. Their investment works.
Dr. James D. Sargent is a pediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at
Dartmouth-Hitchcock. He and his Dartmouth colleagues recently published a study in JAMA Pediatrics showing how marketing influenced the drinking behavior of youths.
The researchers measured the youths’ ability to recall alcohol
advertisements and then determined how that score related to each
individual youth’s tendency to try alcohol or to engage in binge
drinking. The researchers followed up with the teens two years later.
Many of the subjects made a drinking transition from never having used
alcohol to drinking or from drinking some to binging. They found that
the primary risk factors were having friends who drink alcohol, being
risk-takers and familiarity with TV alcohol commercials. Kids who were most familiar with alcohol commercials were four times more likely to binge drink than those who scored lowest.
The advertisements associate drinking with love, friendship, fun
and heartwarming outcomes like the puppy who finds his way home.
Unfortunately, the commercials never show the reality — overindulging
can result in injuries and other unhappy outcomes.