"Confusing" Alcohol Ads? Not so much.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big geek when it comes to advertising. As much as I love football, I love advertising more and the Super Bowl is all about the commercials for me. I’ve been reading speculations for months and I recently spent an entire evening doing nothing but watching spots from the past 43 years. I can’t freaking wait for this year’s commercials. Personally I’m not a big fan of Budweiser’s beer –but I’ll admit that I very much look forward to their advertisements.

When I happened to come across this article on the Chicago Tribune website regarding alcohol ads, I got a bit worked up. Here’s why: In that article Purdue University professor Adam Barry claimed that beer commercials shown during the Super Bowl are misleading. His reasoning? "They have taglines promoting responsible drinking, yet the ads promote more beer sales."

I have news for the good professor; commercials (and all advertising) exist to drive sales! That is why they’re created – whether they feature alcoholic beverages, automobile parts or job search tools, they’re made to sell a product.

Barry believes that the viewers of these commercials are presented with conflicting messages when beer companies claim that their products are "less filling" or full of "drinkability" (which means consumers can drink more) and then immediately told to drink responsibly. He thinks that to clear things up public health experts need to establish exactly what exactly "responsible drinking" means.

Bud Light Drinkability Ad

I’m sorry but I don’t think that a little "clarification" on a television commercial is going to stop that frat party beer pong game from happening or discourage Uncle Jimbo from having one more cold Coors Light at Grandpa’s 90th birthday bash (even if the mountains aren’t blue!)

I can see being upset if beer companies were marketing messages like "don’t stop until you pass out" or "the more you drink, the cooler you become" – but they’re not doing any such thing. If they were condoning or encouraging binge drinking or dangerous behavior by offering mail-in rebates for funnels or selling cans with a built-in shotgun tabs, sure that would be a problem. From what I’ve seen, these companies are simply trying to set their beer apart from the other guys. The great majority of beer ads are saying, "Hey, when you drink a beer – drink THIS kind. It’s better/ more delicious/super fun/will make girls want you/won’t make you fat etc." The big players likes Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Miller Coors tend to play a tug of war with market share and they’re simply trying to get ahead.

I am of the opinion that people who drink beer know what they’re getting themselves into. It’s pretty common knowledge that drinking alcohol in excess will get you drunk and if you drink enough beer, it can even kill you. It is also common knowledge that one should never operate a motor vehicle while drunk because doing so is incredibly dangerous and could be costly or even worse, fatal.

If you ask me, adding another line to the end of a commercial stating what "drinking responsibly" really means isn’t going to discourage anyone from irresponsible or reckless behavior.

Sure, a McDonalds commercial might prompt you to get in the car and go through the drive-thru but it is ultimately your decision to order the extra large value meal and down it before you get back to the couch. There are plenty of people who can enjoy a Big Mac once in awhile without sacrificing their health and becoming obese. In the same way, beer commercials might prompt you to purchase a specific kind of beer but the decision to drink that beer in excess, drive drunk or do other irresponsible things is ultimately yours to make.

I am glad to say that now, at the wise old age of 25, I take drinking responsibly very seriously. However, I am also a young adult who attended college a very short time ago. I’m honest enough to admit that I did occasionally drink irresponsibly. I very much regret some of that irresponsible behavior, however I would never in a million years blame my actions or choices on talking frogs or the real men of genius. If I reeeally wanted to blame someone, I’d opt for my friends and classmates who encouraged such behavior, however ultimately I know that those decisions and any resulting consequences were my own.

I wholeheartedly believe that there should be more efforts to educate young adults on the dangers of binge drinking. I think that alternate transportation should be both available and encouraged. I believe that there should be harsh consequences for drunk drivers (especially those with repeat offenses) and I think that it is important to remind consumers to drink responsibly. I do not however find anything about Super Bowl beer commercials confusing.

End rant.


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