Advertising for the Future: The problem behind alcohol advertising influencing alcohol abuse

Drunk driving is one of the largest causes of death in America and is a huge problem in modern society. It is responsible for 10.5 thousand deaths annually! ( A survey asked 600 civilians who were in a fatal car crash or one where someone got injured, and it was clear alcohol was a common trend in all of the accidents. 24% of drivers had ingested 1-20 12g drinks within 6 hours prior to driving and 36% of the drivers had alcohol in their system with 25% above 1.1% BAC (Connor). Obviously, alcohol is a major problem when it comes to fatalities, and it needs to be fixed. But how? Teenagers and young adults are faced with a myriad of advertisements pulling all the strings manipulate them. The copious different ways alcohol companies portray their product are constantly being reinforced in the brain and is almost impossible to ignore. Throughout my webpage, I will inform you not only on a brief history and current day problems surrounding alcohol advertising, but also a thoroughly crafted solution to this dilemma. 


Personal Interest

     I chose to address this topic for a couple reasons. Primarily, being a teenager in a modern day society, I observe first hand how kids minds can be networked and influenced by what they see or hear, especially if it is associated with popularity. I think it is especially important to address an issue that is primarily about exploiting the temptations of the human mind to make more money for the alcohol businesses. Moreover, all of my friends and I are about to be driving soon, and drunk driving is a very serious issue, someone is injured in an alcohol-influenced crash every 55 seconds! ( It is important to me learn about this hazard and how dangerous it is nowadays, and what we can do to make the roads safer. As well, this is an issue that interests me and I believe it is important to inform as many people as possible. 


Historical Background

     Usage of alcohol goes all the way back to the 17th century when rum was imported from the Caribbean and quickly became a favorite amongst the colonists. Then, onto the 20th century with the 18th amendment, mandating the manufacturing of alcohol, and then the famous prohibition started when Franklin D Roosevelt signed the Volstead Act in 1933 (Axis Recovery). However, The problem with advertisement didn’t come about until 1942, with the Supreme Court in a Valentine v. Chrestensen case. The Supreme Court ruled that the government could regulate any commercial advertisement they wanted because it was not protected by freedom of speech (Schuster). This ruling stayed in place for 30 years until the 1970s gave commercial advertising a little bit of leeway and ramp up the fight to regulate the alcohol industry. 

The supreme court has had a big role in deciding how to regulate the industry, including one big advancement in the late 1900s. In Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation v. Public Service Commission of New York, the supreme court adopted a four-step system to “determine the validity of any regulation of commercial speech” (McNally). If this test is passed, then there are three more pieces of criteria that must be met, it must “directly advance a substantial state interest and utilize the least extensive means to achieve that interest.” (Schuster). 

As well, there were many legislating ideas proposed to regulate advertisement ranging from warning labels on beverages or a complete ban on advertising. 1985, a bill proposing that it be mandatory for counter-advertising for alcoholic beverages (Schuster). This idea was justified because of the Fairness Doctrine, stated that “that TV and radio stations holding FCC-issued broadcast licenses to devote some of their programmings to controversial issues of public importance and allow the airing of opposing views on those issues” (Matthews). However, the proposal was shut down the FTC, and the House of Representatives did not like the idea of banning alcohol whatsoever. Finally,  the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) formed a proposal where the use of celebrities in advertisements be cut down. Once again, this proposal was stonewalled by U.S Treasury Secretary James Baker III (Schuster). So here we are, after a long history of battling advertising through legislation, court, and specialized groups, still facing the same problem of advertising influencing and prompting more drinking. 


Current Day Problem





This is a current day advertisement by a beer company. The way this advertisement make alcohol appealing is they portray it as a coping mechanism. However, alcohol usage is one of the worst coping mechanisms because it can lead to future problems. “Your boyfriend commented his es’s photo on Instagram, some says you just want to forget”. The viewers get the idea that if something bad happens to them, just get drunk and it will go away. As well, by using Instagram in the add, a relatively new app with a young user base, they are targeting young drinkers who may not have the judgment of older adults.




     Here, Midori liquor is promoting their product through sexual appeal. “Want to be like the famous sex icon Kim Kardashian?? Drink our liquor and you will be!”. Kim Kardashian is being shown as the sexy girl every guy wants and every girl wants to be, she “stands out”. As well, they are promoting their product through use of a popular celebrity. Kim Kardashian is a huge idol in teen media and lots of young girls look up to her. By putting her on this advertisement, it provides a way to associate oneself more with Kim Kardashian, by drinking the same liquor as her. Through the use of sexual appeal and celebrities, this is just two of the ways the alcohol industry is selling their product




     This is yet another negative effect of alcohol advertisement on humans.



Although most alcohol advertisements sole purpose is to make money, some address the issue of drinking and warn about the dangers of it.








Below is a video addressing the use of popular children’s superheroes to sell “Mikes Marder Lemonade”. This is just one of the many inappropriate ways the industry portrays alcohol.




     The alcohol industry cannot be regulated overnight with just one solution, it needs a process with as many small solutions as possible. My original idea was to completely ban any provocative alcohol advertisement nationwide, but upon further research, I found out that commercial advertising is somewhat protected by the first amendment rights. That means that state legislature cannot completely ban any form of commercial advertising; however, they can restrict it. Laws should be passed restricting use of; 

  1. Celebrities
  2. Sexual appeal
  3. Cartoon characters or superheroes
  4. Popularity or social benefits

     As well, young adults and children need to take their own initiative in receiving alcohol education. Putting alcohol education in all schools is a major first step, and making sure children know about the dangers of alcohol early on. If we are educated about alcohol earlier, the adds will not influence us as much. However, there is no way to completely block influential adds from the consumers’ minds, which leads back to the regulation of the advertisements themselves. There should be a fine or punishment for any violation of the commercial advertising restrictions I listen above, serving as a deterrent for the industry to not misbehave.



If you are wishing to get involved and help with the fight, there are a few amazing organizations you can donate to. Both orginazations advocate for further education on the topic of abusive alcohol use and driving, and in the past, MADD has advocated for mass censorship of alcohol advertising. As well as donating, SADD and MADD are great places to read up on the issue and get are a great starting point if you want to take action. Personally, I find their websites very interesting and important, and it would be greatly appreciated if you could donate. Thanks!











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  1. April 29, 2018 by Maddie Koo

    Hey, first off I find this topic super relevant because I’ve learned both in school when my grade was required to take “wellness” as well as my drivers ed class, how drunk driving is the largest cause of death. I feel like everyone is aware of this issue, but doesn’t do anything about it as the numbers are increasing. My question for you is how would you have tried to ban any provocative alcohol advertisement nationwide if it wasn’t protected by the first amendment? How can this issue change as a whole, besides educational classes, as people might be taking these classes but ignoring the fact anyways?

  2. April 30, 2018 by Zoe Boggs

    This is such an important issue, and your page is so informative! This will definitely make me think harder about ads for alcohol whenever I see them. It is so scary how much advertising can subtly affect our perceptions.

  3. May 04, 2018 by Ben A

    This is a really interesting project! Before this, I had never seen the ads that marketed alcohol as a coping mechanism. I’m appalled that this tactic is even legal. I have also learned that many alcoholic products are covertly marketed towards teenagers. This reminds me a lot of the tactics used by cigarette companies that are now being adopted by vaping products. These companies should have a responsibility to ensure that their marketing does not harm people. Do you think it would be beneficial if advertisers were forced to have warnings on their products or ads? This could be similar to newer restrictions on cigarette marketing and packaging.

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