Is this ad targeting me? The effects of perceiving oneself as a target of alcohol advertising for people under the legal drinking age

Date of Completion

January 2006


Business Administration, Marketing|Economics, Finance|Health Sciences, Public Health




In the current study we measure the extent to which youth perceive they are targeted by alcohol ads; examine variables that predict the perception of oneself as a target of alcohol ads; and test if the perception of oneself as a target predicts exposure and attention to alcohol ads. We also determine if the perception of oneself as target varies within individuals and research the effects of within-individual variance. ^ In a longitudinal panel design 4 waves of data were collected using computer-aided telephone interviews. Youth aged 14-19 were sampled purposively from a purchased list of randomly selected U.S. households. Interviews were conducted June 2002 through August 2004. Sample sizes per wave were: 2083, 1594, 1140, 840. Respondents rated the extent to which they felt targeted by beer, liquor and premixed (a.k.a. malternative) drink ads. Self-report data on exposure to alcohol ads, attention to alcohol ads, alcohol expectancies, and identification with alcohol ads were also collected. ^ Controlling for prior drinking, age, and gender the perception of oneself as a target of alcohol ads increased exposure and attention to alcohol advertising. Therefore, for both teens who drank an average amount and teens who did not drink at all, thinking of themselves as targets of alcohol advertising increased the amount of ads these teens saw and the amount of attention they paid to alcohol ads. Within-individual analysis showed that the when people feel more targeted by alcohol ads than they normally feel they see more alcohol ads. ^ Ninety-three percent youth surveyed at baseline felt targeted to some degree by alcohol advertising, with half feeling more than somewhat targeted by alcohol ads. There is a linear increase in feeling targeted by alcohol ads from ages 14 to 17 with ages 17 through 19 feeling targeted at the same level. Teens felt more targeted by beer ads than they did for premixed drink and liquor ads. ^ Though alcohol advertisers have publicly stated that youth are not intentionally targeted by alcohol ads this study shows that youth feel targeted by alcohol ads and feeling targeted increases both exposure to alcohol ads and attention to alcohol ads. ^