US Booze Ads: Consumer Group Wants Tighter Age Limits

08 July 2005

US consumer advocacy group The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth is demanding changes to the media industry's self-imposed ban on running alcohol ads in media where adult readership or viewing levels is below 70%.

The hurdle, says CAMY, a vociferous critic of alcohol and beer ads that reach kids, should now be raised to 85%. It cites as its rationale, a belief that current audience research doesn't correctly report under-age listeners and readers because of a lack of sampling of children below the age of twelve.

CAMY is also concerned that some newer magazines don't track youth readership at all. And it argues that even when using standard ratings data, a 70% adult audience target actually reaches more than 30% of youth under the legal drinking age of 21. It avers that this problem is exacerbated with magazines and radio.

Says a CAMY report issued Wednesday: "Without an adjustment a 30% cap applied to magazines and radio is as much as twice as permissive as a 30% cap for television, because of an exclusion of audience data for children under twelve, who are half of the 2 to 20 population."

Unless adjusted accordingly, "alcohol advertisers will continue to place ads in magazines like Maxim, Sport Illustrated, Rolling Stone and Cosmopolitan." CAMY added that publishers could still take ads if they were limited to editions for subscribers older than 21.

In response, The Beer Institute claimed that some of CAMY's statistics relate to a period immediately after a change in the former's ad code, effective January 1 2004. These ignored how the change affected new ad buys and media already bought under the previous 50% cap.

Clearly believing attack to be the best form of defense the beer body continued: "Despite knowing the effective date of this change, CAMY's report applied the new 70% adult, 21 and older, audience composition standard to advertising buys CAMY knew preceded the change.

"CAMY's own advertising figures indicate that the overwhelming majority of ads in first quarter 2004 meet the goal set out in our revised ad code, which reflects the [US Census Bureau's] demographics."

Here's looking at you, kid!

Data sourced from AdAge (USA); additional content by WARC staff