The head of Georgetown University's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth yesterday charged that alcoholic beverage ads on TV primarily depict people "having a good time by consuming this product."
Jim O'Hara, the center's executive director, leveled his criticisms as he released the findings of the center's latest study alleging that youth are 60 times more likely to see an alcohol ad than an ad about alcohol responsibility.
Ad industry spokesmen disagreed with Mr. O'Hara's sentiments.
"The alcohol industry has been doing a good job," said Jeff Perlman, executive vice president of the American Advertising Federation. "I don't see the impetus for this. There are far more pressing matters."
Advertising industry groups also point to a recent University of Michigan study that suggests teenage drinking is not increasing. That study, by the university's Institute of Social Research, was funded by the federal government's National Institute on Drug Abuse. It surveyed 44,000 teenagers and found the number who report using alcohol has declined over the last 20 years.
Mr. O'Hara retorted that it remains to be seen if the National Institute's data holds as a long-term indicator.
"I hope that it is in fact a trend, but to say there is not a serious problem with underage drinking is to ignore reality," he said.
Richard O'Brien, executive vice president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said he was "puzzled" by Mr. O'Hara's study. "They are going through all sorts of contortions to contradict the [government] study," he said.
The new study released by Mr. O'Hara said youths were 170 times more likely to see an ad for an alcoholic product than an ad warning about drunken driving, and 93 times more likely to see an alcohol ad than an industry ad discouraging underage drinking.
Mr. O'Hara said studies show 92% of 12 to 14 year olds and 96% of 15 to 17 year olds who consume alcohol have five or more drinks at a time.
Mr. O'Hara said his organization believes the government should consider establishing an education advertising campaign and is hopeful another study under way by the Institute of Medicine will recommend such a national program.
Posted on aef.com: February 7, 2003
Ira Teinowitz, AdAge.com. February 4, 2003
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