Original article| Volume 52, ISSUE 1, P116-121, January 2013

Risky Messages in Alcohol Advertising, 2003–2007: Results From Content Analysis

  • Elizabeth Rhoades
    Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • David H. Jernigan
    Address correspondence to: David H. Jernigan, Ph.D., Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 West Broadway, Room 292, Baltimore, MD 21205
    Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
    Search for articles by this author



      To assess the content of alcohol advertising in youth-oriented U.S. magazines, with specific attention to subject matter pertaining to risk and sexual connotations and to youth exposure to these ads.


      This study consisted of a content analysis of a census of 1,261 unique alcohol advertisements (“creatives”) recurring 2,638 times (“occurrences”) in 11 U.S. magazines with disproportionately youthful readerships between 2003 and 2007. Advertisements were assessed for content relevant to injury, overconsumption, addiction, and violations of industry guidelines (termed “risk” codes), as well as for sexism and sexual activity.


      During the 5-year study period, more than one-quarter of occurrences contained content pertaining to risk, sexism, or sexual activity. Problematic content was concentrated in a minority of brands, mainly beer and spirits brands. Those brands with higher youth-to-adult viewership ratios were significantly more likely to have a higher percentage of occurrences with addiction content and violations of industry guidelines. Ads with violations of industry guidelines were more likely to be found in magazines with higher youth readerships.


      The prevalence of problematic content in magazine alcohol advertisements is concentrated in advertising for beer and spirits brands, and violations of industry guidelines and addiction content appear to increase with the size of youth readerships, suggesting that individuals aged <21 years may be more likely to see such problematic content than adults.


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