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
Date Written: December 13, 2013
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
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