Is Advertising To Blame For Your Drinking Problem?

Is Advertising To Blame For Your Drinking Problem?

There is a lot of glamorized drinking shown on TV shows and in movies, which can entice people to drink more.  There are also commercials that focus on advertising and selling specific brands of liquors and wines. Conversely, there are also those agencies and companies that caution against drinking, though it is mostly focused on drinking and driving. With such a prevalence of drinking in the media, one might wonder is it the media’s fault that people become addicted to alcohol or even start drinking?

How The Media Sells Us On Alcohol

Paper. Magazines. Television. The internet. Media is all around us, constantly barraging us with ads for various products, one of which is alcohol. The advertising industry is designed to do just that however, to advertise.  It is common knowledge that companies spend millions on advertising and that there are entire departments dedicated to designing ads that resonate with a company’s target market. There are even entire courses of study dedicated to figuring out advertising science as to how it relates to the people and how it works, called consumer psychology.  The job of advertisements or advertising companies is to figure out where the best ad placement is and how to reach the designated consumer. There are a few common tactics used repeatedly in the media. A few of them are used often by companies specifically in selling alcohol.

  • It can make you happier – Partaking in alcohol or a particular brand of alcohol will help relax you, take away stress. In short they are promising a few moments of happiness if you partake in their products.
  • It will improve aspect or an aspect of your life – This tactic is similar to the aforementioned tactic. However this covers more, such as this product can improve relationships, your odds of getting the girl, help you win friends and be the life of the party.
  • Selling sex – such a common tactic, yet very useful. Sex sells a lot of things and satisfies a basic desire.
  • All your friends are doing it – This is the fear of missing out. If all of your friends are doing it, why wouldn’t you? Do you want to miss out? Do you want to be the loser? Then come join in!
  • Celebs – celebrity endorsements sell products like no other. Since many people worships celebrities and others like them (very much), people are inclined to follow their advice or do what someone they admire does. Therefore if your favorite celebrity does it then so should you. They have a life you admire, so why wouldn’t you do what they do?
  • Get you laughing – Companies use humor to connect with you. If someone or something can make you laugh, you usually let your guard down a little. You are more inclined to listen as well as they have found a way to do something that inspires feel good feelings. With the very little trust you may have they can influence you to at least listen.
  • Show up in your favorite shows or partner with other brands you already use – this tactic places a new brand in something you already like or enjoy. You see the brand and are more inclined to use it because it’s associated with something that you already like or trust.

Advertising companies really focus on the emotional benefits their product can deliver rather than the rational benefits. This is because most people realize the rational benefit of a product but are looking to find out, what’s in it for them, how this product bridges a gap or create a connection for them. It is often the emotional part of advertising that makes this link.

Is there an Alternative Viewpoint?

However, Adam Ferrier Maps, a consumer psychologist, offers us an alternative. He says that a motivation or desire that is not already present cannot be created and that it is because people are born with a certain set of motivations and desires and advertisers only attempt to fill those specific needs.  If this is true, then people who do drink would have always taken that first drink without ever needing to see an advertisement, TV show or movie. One might argue that their motivation is to be happy or sociable or included and that drinking is the means to do so. However if that is their motivation, then why not choose any number of other “marketed products or activities” to use or partake in? Why choose to use alcohol?

Other individuals believe that television culture more so reflects what happens in society. Drinking is included in movies and shows as a result of how popular drinking is in reality and that people identify with it. This is similar to the paradox of the chicken and the egg – which came first, the idea that drinking can do certain things for you or drinking and people associating it doing things for you and that becoming the culture.

Looking back to the first alcoholic beverages present in America; they were present before there was media as we know it today. People simply drank based off of what was happening in society. With this is mind it seems more reasonable to say that the media isn’t responsible for anyone’s drinking problem.  Rather it is responsible for perpetuating the problem of alcoholism in America or for conditioning those with alcohol sensitivities and impressionable young minds to engage in the life of using mind-altering substance.


Additional References: PsychlopaediaThe Balance