The journal article in question uses the Miller lite ad (an American beer low in fat not low in alcohol percentage) and analyses it to provide a preliminary understanding of how well adolescents attend to voluntary cautionary messages in alcohol ads. Using a Diet Coke ad as a point of reference with both ads having limited graphic material placed on a plain white background in the lower right corner containing information in small print.
“Using McNemar’s test tracking the pupils of the respondents eye , the percentage of participants who fixated on the Miller lite voluntary cautionary statement was significantly lower than the percentage who fixated in the comparable area in the diet coke ad, 84% versus 64%, hence the cautionary statement attracted less attention than a miniature of a well known trademark.” (Fox et al., 1998). Therefore, it is proven to an extent that this cautionary statement is not effective enough in gaining the attention of the youths in question.
Furthermore, it is not only print ads but probably more so television advertisements that encourage underage drinking. Therefore, action also must be taken to reduce the impact of alcohol advertising on underage people in television given the impact television has on our youth. Since it has been proven (to an extend) that “High school students spend more time viewing advertising for a beer brand than they spent viewing advertising for a popular soft drink brand.” The problem is how to counteract this dilemma in the industry as a whole. Should relevant authorities ban alcohol advertising, regulate when it can be seen, modify the way cautionary statements are made or self impose regulations regarding when and how alcohol advertisements are shown.
The possibility of banning alcohol advertising would not only enrage alcohol producing industry and related industries but also the media industry would lose a huge customer. Therefore the alcohol industry and the media industry would be completely against this move and the backlash to such a move would be to large to justify without significantly more research undertaken on the subject. Therefore, this extreme step is unlikely in the near future.
The possibility of regulating the times and media upon which the alcohol advertisement would be shown is an alternative worth considering especially since “Since most people under the age of 18 (legal consent for alcohol consumption in Australia) watch TV and young people ages 12-18 average about 3 hours of TV viewing per day (AC Neilson CO., 1986), also correlational research has found that exposure to alcohol advertising is associated with pro-alcohol consumption expectancies and greater alcohol consumption among youth” (Slater et al, 1996). Given these facts and further research into the target audience and actual viewing audience of television shows, alcohol advertisements should be restricted to TV shows with a major majority of the audience over the age of 18. This can be undertaken through market research or simply purchasing this information from companies such as AC Neilson and/or ABS.
Cautionary statements, according to the journal article in question are seen to be ineffective in capturing the target audiences’ attention and thus need to be changed to be more effective. This can be achieved possibly via changes to the size of the ad, changes to the layout, wording, colouring etc, and/ or all of the above. The cautionary statements have to be made to grab the youth’s attention otherwise they are simply ineffective and useless. This step is a must in the fight to reduce underage drinking; the cautionary statements must be made to a legal standard in size and quality of message. A committee could be put in place with representatives from the community, government and alcohol producing industry, to create these cautionary messages with funding provided from the alcohol industry.
Probably the best and most effective solution is the self imposing of regulations by the industry on the industry. These regulations can be concerning the actual cautionary warning (that is, the size, layout, wording, etc), the programs and media upon which the ads can be shown and the timing of the ads. These self imposed regulations could be suggested to major companies via an outside source or created via a focus group of industry leaders, government officials, companies and community stakeholders similar to the committee proposed above.