LONDON: UK regulators Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority are in self-congratulatory mode, claiming that their new alcohol advertising rules - introduced in October 2005 - have made booze ads less appealing in the eyes of children.

The rules were intended to prevent alcohol ads from being associated with or reflecting youth culture. And to establish whether this succeeded, the regulatory duo commissioned a two-part research project.

Stage one results, published in December 2005, laid down a benchmark against which the impact of the new rules could be assessed; while second stage research, announced Monday, measured the effect of the new rules.

Key findings from the second stage reveal that ...

  • Between 2005-07 alcoholic drink suppliers shifted their adspend away from television with a reduction of 26.2% on TV versus a 2.9% fall across all media.

  • Children and young adults are now exposed to fewer alcohol advertisements on TV. Between 2002-06 advertising impacts fell by 31% for the 16-24 age group and 39% for the 10-15 year group.

  • There has been a significant decline in the proportion of young people saying that they feel alcohol ads are aimed at them.

  • Young people do feel that such ads make the drink look appealing and that they encourage people to drink, with 34% believing this to be the case in 2007 versus 25% in 2005.

  • There has been a significant decline in young people's recall of alcohol ads, with unprompted mentions of alcohol ads down from an average of 3.95 ads to 3.31.
But have these trends impacted on the actual consumption of alcohol by young people?

The research produced results as mixed as an Alabama Slammer:
  • There has been very little change in the proportion of 11-17 years olds saying they regularly drink to get drunk.

  • Alcopops have declined in popularity. Between 2005-2007, there has been an 11% drop across all ages of those who claim to have drunk alcopops in the last six months.

  • There has been an increase in the amount of cider that young people report drinking. This is particularly the case among the 14-17 and 18-21 age groups: three in ten young people from both these groups have drunk cider in the last six months (compared to 14% and 11% respectively in 2005). The proportion of TV spend represented by the cider market rose from 1.8% in 2002 to 15.5% in 2006.
Although the second research phase, carried out in June 2007, does not generate conclusive data on the impact of the rule changes, the information on trends and statistics will be useful for informing the ASA Council on future decisions as to whether specific ads have breached the alcohol code rules.

Says Ofcom director of content Kate Stross: "These are issues of considerable public concern. We welcome the fact the ASA will keep the matter under review and ensure the rules remain effective and appropriate."

To download the full research report click here.

Data sourced from multiple origins; additional content by WARC staff