Advertising and alcohol: an analysis of the evidence relating to two major aspects of the debate

Michael Waterson

Director of Research, The Advertising Association, UK


The overall conclusions from this 1989 examination of the published work relating to the impact of alcohol advertising on drink markets in developed countries, are that competitive brand advertising for drink products has as its intent the commercial purpose of maintaining or increasing the brand share of the product being advertised, and independent reviews of the literature now available confirm that advertising plays an insignificant role in moulding the broad patterns of demand for product groups such as drink. The evidence shows that it is extremely unlikely that brand advertising has the unintended side-effect of increasing the total size of large mature markets such as drink. None of the research listed in this paper can be regarded as positive 'proof' of the hypothesis that advertising expenditure works only at the brand level. Nevertheless the wide range of independent sources of evidence, together with the variety of methodological approaches used, does tend to suggest strongly that the view that brand advertising does not expand the total market for drink products is a valid one.