Alcohol companies are spending less money on radio advertisements, but the messages are reaching a disproportionally large number of minors, according to an alcohol industry watchdog group.
In spite of spending less overall, about 36 percent of alcohol radio ads were placed on shows that are "youth oriented," meaning that listeners between the ages of 12 and 20 were more likely per capita to listen to them than adults, according to the new report from the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Georgetown University.
"What (alcohol companies are) doing is more efficiently reaching kids.
That's presumably a waste of their marketing dollars — there is no good reason for them to be doing it," said David Jernigan, CAMY's executive director.
Beer Institute President Jeff Becker said in a statement that brewers do not violate the beer industry's voluntary guidelines. The rules say beer ads should reach a listening audience in which people younger than 21 compose no more than 30 percent of the total.
"If a brewer finds following a new report that an ad placement no longer meets the 70 percent standard, brewers will, as soon as practicable, make schedule adjustments, cancellations, or other appropriate changes," Becker's statement said.
Jernigan said the CAMY study does not show widespread violation of the beer industry standard, finding that 8 percent of the ads were played to an audience of more than 30 percent minors. But the study shows youths are still reached disproportionally because minors compose only about 15 percent of the overall U.S. population, Jernigan said.
St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the nation's largest brewer, dismissed the new study.
"Preventing underage drinking is about preventing youth access to alcohol, not about what a teen does or doesn't hear on the radio. If teens can't get alcohol, they can't drink it," Anheuser-Busch Vice President Carol Clark said in a statement.
Clark said the Federal Trade Commission did not support CAMY's push to advertise to audiences that include just a 15 percent share of minors because that standard would "prevent the companies from advertising in media where there is substantial adult interest." CAMY determined what radio shows are "youth oriented" by analyzing ratings figures from Arbitron Inc. If a show's audience is composed of a larger percent of minors than the overall population, it is considered youth oriented, Jernigan said.
Clark said Arbitron's most recent quarterly report for the third quarter of 2006 shows that Anheuser-Busch's radio ads played to an audience that was 88 percent over the age of 21.
The CAMY study monitored 337,602 alcohol product ads placed on stations in 28 of the largest U.S. radio markets in during 2006. It found that overall spending on radio ads for alcoholic beverages fell by 38 percent between 2001 and 2006.