The Advertising Problem

The high level of alcohol use by those under the age of 21 creates an advertising problem for the companies that market alcoholic beverages. How do you advertise to the 21-and-over group and also appear not to be appealing to the under-21 group? Since teenagers have a very strong desire to grow up fast, or at least participate in activities they view as adult, they are very vulnerable to anything they believe would help them achieve adulthood.

Critics accuse the alcoholic-beverage companies of making their advertising and promotional programs inviting to teenagers, who are already very receptive to the ideas of engaging in adult activities, being successful, being more confident, and being more attractive to the opposite sex. The alcoholic beverage companies respond that they follow the industry voluntary advertising guidelines and do not target teenagers. They also point to programs like the public service initiatives sponsored by America's beer industry, which encourages drinkers to ''know when to say when,'' ''drink smart or don't start,'' ''think when you drink,'' or ''drink safely.''

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