Consumerism: Alcohol Advertising

By Alvin Codner:

The Affect of Alcohol Advertising

The term “consumerism” is a word with two meanings that refers both to an ideology and to protective movement. Consumerism as an ideology describes a society in which people define their identities by acquiring and displaying materials goods beyond what they need for subsistence. Consumerism to protective movement is a movement to promote the rights and powers of consumers in relation to sellers. Alcohol advertising is a prime example of both meanings but I will focus more so on the ideology of consumerism.

Alcohol advertising is known for having very persuasive and seductive television commercials and other advertisement to get potential customers to buy alcohol. Anheuser-Busch the creator of Budweiser beer, is a example of what practicing consumerism as an ideology looks like but he also had conflict in doing so. According to (Steiner & Steiner, 2012, Chapter 15), in 2005 more drinkers between 21 and 30 years old found novelty in new brands, drinks, and mixes marketed by the distillers. The trend in bars and clubs was moving away from domestic beers such as Budweiser. So the chairman of the Budweiser Company thought they needed something fun and new for their customers. That product was called Spykes, a caffeinated malt liquor beverage that was 12 percent alcohol. By early 2007, with word of mouth and internet advertising it reached stores in 32 states. It was great for the business but the way he marketed to get sales of the Spykes beer is what caused him issues. The advertising approaches targeted more so the younger than legal age to drink population rather than the young adult population. There was a press release on him and the company which made the product Spykes looks all bad. The evidence that Spykes targeted underage drinkers included sweet flavors, the lack of age verification and “teen-friendly” attractions on its website, and its caffeine (which was overly popular with teenagers). Once that evidence arose, the attorneys general of 28 states wrote Anheuser-Busch expressing the serious concern about Spykes and the way it was advertised which forced him to end the product Spykes and take it out of stores.

In my opinion, the Anheuser-Busch and Spykes was a Consumer Identity Project. Consumer Identity Projects are usually considered to be goal driven even though when the goal is pursued it may often be marked by points of conflict, internal contradictions, and ambivalence. According to (Arnold & Thompson, 2011, p. 871), consumer culture concerns the co-constitutive/co-productive ways in which consumers working with marketer-generated materials forge a coherent if diversified and often fragmented sense of self.

According to (Anderson, Brujin, Angus, Gordon, & Hastings, 2009), longitudinal studies consistently suggest that exposure to media and commercial communications on alcohol is associated with the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink alcohol, and with increased drinking amongst baseline drinkers. Based on the strength of this association, the consistency of evidence across multiple observational studies, temporality of exposure and drinking behaviors observed, dose-response relationships, as well as the theoretical plausibility regarding the impact of media exposure and commercial communications, the conductors of this research study concluded that alcohol advertising and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.

After doing research on the influence of alcohol advertising on consumption has taken two principal forms of studies. The form that intrigued me the most was the consumer studies which examines how human’s drinking knowledge, attitude, and behavior vary with their exposure to alcohol advertising. According to (Hastings, Anderson, Cooke, & Gordon, 2005, p. 303), and the studies conducted by well known researchers such as Strickland, Atkin,Casswell, Zhang, Elickson, and Snyder… overall, the consumer studies proved that in theory it is ideal that the more aware and familiar young people are of alcohol advertising, the more likely they are going to drink both now and in the future when become adults. The fact after all the research I have done on alcohol advertisement, it all makes sense me now why all the beer and alcoholic beverage commercials and social media ads are so persuasive and appealing to the younger generation is because of the fact it’s not per se illegal. False advertisement is illegal and that is how a lot of alcoholic products never lasted long or conflict arose due to the controversial ads, but alcoholic companies always find a way to word, state, and present their alcoholic product to appeal to the young adults without actually saying “we are targeting underage drinkers”.

Overall, after doing research on the topic of alcoholic advertising and the practice of consumerism done by alcoholic companies, I have personally came to the conclusion that most if not all care about the effects the advertising has on the underage drinking population and they only care about making the sale of their products and keeping their business up and running with way more than what need for subsistence.


Anderson, P., Brujin, A., Angus, K., Gordon, R., & Hastings, G. (2009). Impact of Alcohol Advertising and Media Exposure on Adolescent Alcohol Use: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies. Oxford Journals, 229-243. Retrieved from

Arnold, E. J., & Thompson, C. J. (2011). Consumer Culture Theory (CCT): Twenty Years of Research. CHICAGO JOUNALS, 31(868-882). Retrieved from

Hastings, G., Anderson, S., Cooke, E., & Gordon, R. (2005). Alcohol Marketing and Young People’s Drinking: A Review of the Research. Journal of Public Health Policy, 26, 296-311. Retrieved from

Steiner, J. F., & Steiner, G. A. (2012). Business, Government, and Society (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

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