Study: Alcohol Advertising Grew 400% In 40 Years — But Americans Aren’t Drinking More

Since 1971, advertisers have churned out more and more content dedicated to pushing alcohol in its various forms. But just because we might see a galloping horse promoting beer in slow motion or a fun gang carrying a cooler of malt beverages on a beach every time we turn on the TV, computer or sit staring at a subway ad, that doesn’t mean Americans are drinking more booze than we did 40 years ago, according to a new study.

While marketing efforts on behalf of alcohol companies might bring in new customers or keep current fans loyal, it seems all that money spent on advertising isn’t turning the country into a nation of lushes, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin (via AdWeek).

Researchers led by advertising professor Gary Wilcox looked at alcohol sales between 1971 and 2011, and found that per capita consumption stayed basically flat. Over the same period, alcohol advertising in the U.S. climbed by more than 400%.

“Relating these findings to previous research reveals a consistency in that there is either no relationship or a weak one between advertising and aggregate sales,” the report states. “Over this time period, beer sales have exhibited a downward trend since the early 1990s, while wine and liquor have increased their share of total alcohol sales. This is despite large increases in advertising expenditures across all three categories of alcohol.”

While the boost in ads might not change how much we drink, marketers can still be assured that their ads are good at guiding brand preference, the study says.

You might be more likely to go out and buy a Miller High Life or a Bud Light after watching a good ad, but you’re probably not going to buy 24 of them and drink them all at once just because of a commercial, for example, or suddenly think it’s a good thing to go from three drinks a week to 30.

Instead, you’ll probably just be like, “Man, you’re right, cool, attractive person drinking on the beach! I really do like [X brand]!” or “Maybe I should try switching to [Y brand] because those horses are just so majestic.”

Beer, wine, or spirits? Advertising’s impact on four decades of category sales
Alcohol Ads Increased 400% Over 40 Years, but Americans Aren’t Drinking More [AdWeek]