A Methodological Critique of Alcohol and Addiction Researchers’ Studies on the Effect of Advertising on Adolescent Alcohol Consumption

51 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2013 Last revised: 14 Dec 2013

Jaakko Aspara

Hanken School of Economics; Aalto University School of Business (formerly known as Helsinki School of Economics)

Henrikki Tikkanen

Aalto University - Department of Marketing and Management

Date Written: December 13, 2013

Abstract

Considering restrictions on alcohol advertising, public policy-makers around the world cite a set of studies conducted by alcohol and addiction researchers on the effects of alcohol advertising on alcohol consumption. These studies suggest that advertising is a cause of increased alcohol consumption, especially among adolescents. The aim of the present article is to scrutinize the evidence of alcohol and addiction researchers vis-à-vis the scientific research standards routinely applied in marketing/consumer research. The authors assess both the strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies used in the focal studies. As a result of this assessment, the authors conclude that the evidence presented in the studies is not rigorous enough to establish any effect of alcohol advertising on adolescent alcohol consumption. The evidence is undermined by methodological problems, including exclusive use of the survey approach, reliance on self-reported subjective data, focus on the effects general media exposure and brand attitudes instead of advertising, and other validity challenges. It is concluded that bans on alcohol product advertising could even increase alcohol consumption, due to dynamic effects of marketing.

Keywords: alcohol consumption, advertising, public policy, addiction, meta-analysis, review, adolescents

Suggested Citation

Aspara, Jaakko and Tikkanen, Henrikki, A Methodological Critique of Alcohol and Addiction Researchers’ Studies on the Effect of Advertising on Adolescent Alcohol Consumption (December 13, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2205112 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2205112

Jaakko Aspara (Contact Author)

Hanken School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 479
Helsinki, Helsinki 00101
Finland

Aalto University School of Business (formerly known as Helsinki School of Economics) ( email )

P.O. Box 21230
Helsinki, 00076
Finland

Henrikki Tikkanen

Aalto University - Department of Marketing and Management ( email )

P.O. Box 1210
Helsinki, FIN-00101
Finland

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