Youth Exposure to Alcohol Advertising in the United States: Assessment of Two Types of Television Ratings and Implications for Voluntary Advertising Guidelines
Do youth switch channels during alcohol advertisements at different rates than adults? This question has implications for the alcohol industry’s self-regulation of its advertising placements. People may avoid television advertisements by switching channels, which can be measured by comparing two television audience metrics: commercial ratings (which measure the audience during the advertisement) and program ratings (which measure the audience during the television program). The study assessed changes in youth and adult audiences during alcohol advertisements with implications for alcohol industry self-regulatory compliance.
A census of alcohol advertisements for 2010–2014 was licensed from Nielsen (New York, NY). The study compared noncompliant advertisements (with youth making up >28.4% of the audience) and the percentage decline in per capita advertising exposure for youth and adult age groups using both commercial and program ratings.
The audience during the alcohol advertisement declined by 8.48% among underage viewers ages 12–17 years and by 7.04% for viewers ages 18–20 years, compared with 8.20% for adults ages 21–24, 10.43% for ages 25–34, and 9.74% for ages 35 and older. These declines exceeded the margin of error (±2.6%), indicating a decline in viewership across all age groups, but the study could not draw conclusions about differences between age groups. Compared with audience estimates using commercial ratings, program ratings underestimated the number of noncompliant advertisements by 8,800, leading to an underestimate of noncompliant exposure by 140 million impressions.
Both underage viewers and young adults switched channels during alcohol advertisements. Using commercial ratings rather than program ratings may more accurately measure compliance with alcohol industry advertising guidelines.