According to Antonia Novello, Surgeon General of the United States, in SIRS Government Reporter, the principle cause of death for those between the ages of 15 and 24 are alcohol related car crashes (1). Doesn’t it make sense that we should concentrate our efforts into reducing this problem of alcohol abuse? Apparently DISCUS, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, doesn’t think so. Worsnop says that on November 7, 1996, they removed their voluntary ban of hard liquor ads on television and radio that had been in affect since 1936 (219).
He then states that the removal came right after Seagram, a liquor company, advertised for some of their hard liquor on KRIS-TV in CorpusChrist, Texas (219). This movement is definitely a step in the wrong direction and action should be taken to reinstate this ban, but this time legally. First of all, the removal of the ban gave DISCUS a bad reputation. Already the four major TV networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX) have vowed not to air ads for hard liquor (Worsnop 219). DISCUS has also lost respect in the field of politics, especially with numerous congressmen and the President, himself.
Worsnop said “Beer group representatives think DISCUS’ announcement undercut its credibility in Washington” (219). Bill Clinton referred to the decision as “simply irresponsible” (qtd in Worsnop 219). Secondly, many of these advertisements for liquor have been said to target teens. However, Seagram’s executive vice president of marketing strategy, Arthur Shapiro, said that Seagram had taken “great pains that our advertising doesn’t appeal to or aim at children” (qtd in Krantz 1). This is not so, according to Katherine Prescott, who pointed out the use of animals and a graduation theme in Seagram’s commercial.
This seems to associate the use of alcohol with academic success when the two rarely coexist (Tannert 2). Clinton also expressed his concern that the ban may cause increased drinking among minors (Facts on File 492 vol 57). Even if teens were not targeted directly in an advertisement, Froehlich says “Teenagers are three times as likely as adults to respond to ads… ” This is party due to their self-insecurity (Froehlich 1 Novello in SIRS Researcher 5). It has been suggested that in order to reduce teen response to advertisements, counter-advertising should be used.
This is when advertisements are shown that discourage illegal or abusive use or products. Research projects showed that while advertising increased consumption, counter-advertising had a successful, opposite affect (Saffer 4). While this sounds like a good idea, why would a company counter-advertise a product they are trying to sell? It would be just the same to not advertise in the first place and save a lot of money. Many believe that while ads do cause product use, they merely persuade people to change to a specific brand.
However, in a survey of 534 teens, “the percentage of teens who said the ads make smoking and drinking more appealing was greater than the percentage who said ads make then want the product. ” Teens who had at least five drinks in a row during the two weeks prior to the survey taken consisted of 16% of 8th graders, 25% of 10th graders and 30% of 12th graders (Horovitz and Wells 3-5). These ads are clearly having an affect on young adults, and even the teens, themselves, have no doubt they are the primary target of most beer and liquor ads (Horovitz and Wells 3).
Another argument made by distilled spirits advocates is that their industry should be treated just like the beer and wine industry because “alcohol is alcohol” (Krantz 1). While alcohol may very well be alcohol, it does come in different amounts. Most liquors have much more concentrated amounts of alcohol than beers and wines do. Distilled spirits companies have also complained that their business has declined because they were unable to advertise while beer and wine companies were allowed to advertise.
Beer sales have nearly doubled since the 1960’s, while liquor sales have declined 29% since 1980 (Coming to a TV Screen 1). Even though the distilled spirits industry has been obviously hurt by their inability to advertise, it doesn’t mean to say they should reduce their morals to the level of beer and wine companies. Rather than removing their own ban and using the beer and wine industry as an excuse, DISCUS should lobby for a ban on wine and beer to produce an equal mark! et in that way.
This would allow all three industries to save from not having to worry about competition in the advertising field. . It’s time to turn around and get moving back in the right direction. DISCUS should stop acting irresponsibly and reinstate their voluntary ban to prevent legal enforcement and embarrassment. We need to be aware and concerned about what kinds of advertisements are displayed on television. And as Norman Douglas once said “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements” (724).