Recruiting the “Heavy-Using Loyalists of Tomorrow”: An Analysis of the Aims, Effects and Mechanisms of Alcohol Advertising, Based on Advertising Industry Evaluations
- to use these data to test five common alcohol and advertising industry claims about the purpose, and effects (or lack of effects) of alcohol advertising (see Table 1), and
- to identify the main mechanisms by which alcohol advertising works, as reported in these case studies.
2. Materials and Methods
- Title of case study (Year, Book)
- The stated advertising objectives
- The stated effects of the campaign
- The reported methods used by the case study to show impact (e.g., regression modelling, and any qualitative data reported), and
- Any other reported effects of the campaign (e.g., changing social norms, effects in subgroups).
3.1. Alcohol Industry Claim #1: Advertising Primarily Affects Brand Choice/Market Share
“Stella’s fortunes were transformed. It outperformed every other premium lager brand, with sales increasing five-fold in just seven years, its growth outpaced the market, and as a consequence its share almost doubled…whilst commanding a significant price premium over every other comparable brand”. (Stella Artois, 1993)
“Advertising influenced both ROS (rate of sale) and distribution…and hence its market share” (Bud Ice, 1999).
3.2. Alcohol Industry Claim #2: Advertising Does not, and Is not Intended to, Stimulate Consumption
- stimulating trial of the product,
- increasing drinking frequency,
- extending the type and number of occasions on which the product can be drunk,
- targeting heavy drinkers,
- recruiting new drinkers, and/or
- increasing claimed usage.
“We did not want to just sell Magners in the warm summer months: we wanted it to be drunk throughout the year”.(Magners Cider, 2008) 
“…gave permission for a ‘drinking occasion’… Blokes were lapping up the ads, but most importantly, they were lapping up Foster’s lager too…as the ads ran, sales rose, and they have continued to do so”.(Foster’s Lager, 2015 )
3.3. Examples of Advertising Being Used to Stimulate Trial
“To build awareness of the brand, on the assumption (based on the development research) that this would ‘naturally stimulate’ trial. Objectives were set for post-advertising brand awareness levels of 30% spontaneous and 45% prompted, and for trial levels by end of first year of 10% of all adults, 15% in 18–34 age group.”(Shakers cocktails, 1985 )
“Served blind, Stella was not significantly preferred to other draught lager brands, indeed it frequently lost to them. The reason is that Stella is one of the most bitter tasting of all lagers, and many people find a fuller, sweeter taste more to their liking. So, despite the expensive Czechoslovakian female hops, Stella is not a significantly preferred pint…until of course you put the name back on it.”
“The most concrete measure of increased consumer demand is rate of purchase. Grolsch’s rate has more than trebled since campaign launch…Put simply, consumers are demanding the brand more than ever”.(Grolsch, 2003 )
3.4. Alcohol Industry Claim #3: Any Observed Relationship between Advertising and Consumption is not Causal
“This case history will show the vital role that an integrated advertising strategy, in terms of planning input, media choice and creative content, played in that growth. It will seek to demonstrate a causal relationship between advertising and Campari sales performance…”(Campari, 1981 )
“Confidence levels are over 99% that there is a causal relationship between cumulative advertising weight and penetration”.
“Favourable attitudes have resulted in increased claimed usage…over the course of the campaign, the brand has clearly developed unparalleled relationships with drinkers, based on deeply held perceptions of quality and discernment. This has resulted in a further long-term sales effect…attempting to explain this underlying growth trend, we plotted it against every conceivable measurable factor and found that the strongest correlation was with brand affinity... We therefore suggest that brand affinity drives underlying sales growth… The model clearly shows that brand affinity is driven by brand awareness, which is in turn econometrically linked with advertising. We can therefore prove a longer-term, slow build advertising effect. According to our econometric model, this effect is worth an additional 9000 barrels, or £3.2 million revenue, per £1 million ad spend”.(Stella Artois, 2000 )
3.5. Alcohol Industry Claim #4: Advertising Does not Promote or Condone Irresponsible or Harmful Drinking
“If Miller Lite was to be a large profitable brand we had to attract these young heavy drinkers”.(Miller Lite, 2004 )
“…Campari needed to achieve a more stable and democratic base. This meant recruiting new, younger, mass market trialists from among the socially mobile, high-spending, heavier drinkers with the discretionary income to spend drinking in pubs in the evenings.”(Campari, 1981 )
“Television was chosen as the sole medium. This was not only for reasons of cost-efficiency (although heavy drinkers do tend to be heavy ITV watchers too), but because of the nature of the advertising task”.(John Smith’s Bitter, 1981 )
“A quality lager to a “Headbanger” is one which is stronger…The clever thing about this line (i.e., ‘Reassuringly expensive’) was that each user group could appropriate it for their own ends. The original ‘Connoisseurs’ could use it with the ingredients story to reassure themselves that the product had a distinctive flavour, the ‘Headbangers’ who knew that the duty levied on alcohol made up a large chunk of the price, could use it to reassure themselves that because it cost more it was stronger”.
“A cluster analysis …isolated a group of late 20s/early 30s up-market drinkers with clearly affluent quality-oriented tastes (Connoisseurs), a group of younger middle-market heavy drinkers with clearly hedonistic tastes (‘Headbangers’) and a group of younger up-market drinkers, highly experimental and with fashion-oriented tastes (Style –seekers’)…the only premium brand they all consume above average is Stella Artois”.
“As is the case in many post-mature markets, whisky brands are very reliant on a small number of heavy, and increasingly ageing, consumers, to provide the majority of volume. The Famous Grouse was no exception. Our first advertising task was to protect and build this core drinker base by persuading existing consumers and drinkers of competitive blends to choose The Famous Grouse more often. In the longer term we had to attract more younger drinkers – the heavy-using loyalists of tomorrow”.(Famous Grouse whisky, 2006 )
“The potentially disastrous implications of losing heavy drinkers had locked whisky advertising into a creative paradigm defined by past executions, the so-called ‘whisky cage’. To achieve our objectives, we needed to break out of this cage.”.(Famous Grouse whisky, 2006 )
“Blended whisky suffers from an ageing customer profile. Figure 1 shows that 62% of heavy users are aged 55+ and 39% over retirement age. Parts of the market are literally dying off, whisky tumbler in hand….”
“The increased volume and rate of sale, despite the diminished distribution, indicates that where the brand was available, purchase was also hugely increased – not only from existing customers buying more”. As with many other markets, the Pareto principle applies: 20% of drinkers account for 80% of sales. So, rather than struggle to make whisky appeal to younger consumers like the premium brands, we chose to focus on the core audience of heavy users. We knew that they were older. We knew they were primarily male. We knew that unlike malt users they tended to be downmarket”.(Scottish Leader whisky, 2003 )
“…young people in the early 1990’s turned away from “routine heavy drinking” (see p 409). Around 1995 however the % of daily drinkers went back up to 62%, including the rise of a ‘feminine session culture’, which facilitated a new drinks sector, ‘Premium Packaged Spirits’. (i.e., spirits and mixer combinations). ‘A great deal of this is amongst Archers’ core target”.(Archers, 2000 )
3.6. Alcohol Industry Claim #5: Advertising has no Influence on Young People, or on Encouraging Drinking in Young People, or Underage Drinking
“By 2014, Guinness started to see significant drops in price elasticity in Great Britain and Ireland…The reduction in price sensitivity also helped us to stem long-term decline in volume in GB, and we saw an upturn in fortunes in Ireland”.(Guinness, 2016 )
“The premium price ideally pays for the advertising which tells the consumer the product costs more in the first place”.(Stella Artois, 1993) 
3.7. Psychological and Attitudinal Mechanisms by which Advertising Works
“In its Belgian homeland, Stella is a swilling lager lacking in premium credentials, in blind taste tests in the UK, the product regularly finishes bottom of the league (being too bitter for many). However, add the Stella name and the perspective of British lager drinkers changes radically… This phenomenon, where brand potency overcomes product reality, is also seen quantitatively. Stella outperforms its key competitors on almost every image dimension”.
3.8. Lagged Effects of Advertising
“However, the effect of advertising does not cease at this last data point. Not because we continued advertising after that period (even though we did) but because there would be residual effect from the advertising up to that period… advertising was responsible for an extra 62,618 barrels (excluding adstock) and 94,341 barrels (including adstock)”.(Boddington’s beer, 1995 )
“The analysis shows that, although the ads were only on air for a two and half year period, they ‘continue to generate a further 72 million bottles and £77, of extra revenue over the next six years’”(Budweiser, 2003 )
“The result has been accelerated growth that even now, eight years later, remains very strong and continues to outpace the category significantly”.(Johnnie Walker whisky, 2009 )
3.9. Return on Investment in Advertising
4.1. Advertising Mechanisms
“We targeted the influential drinkers who had a high degree of interest and were well connected…the on-trade teams targeted influential bars for initial distribution, and we undertook an extensive sampling campaign to accelerate trial”.
4.2. Strengths and Limitations
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|Claim||Example of Claim, and Source|
|1. Advertising primarily affects brand choice/market share: The primary purpose of advertising is to affects brand choice, thus increasing market share (i.e., not stimulating total consumption)||“In a mature market, the purpose of marketing is to differentiate among individual branded products—it aims to increase market share”. |
|2. Advertising does not, and is not intended to, stimulate consumption: Advertising does not create demand, or affect consumption||“…advertising is very effective in achieving brand-switching but has, at most, a marginal impact on total consumption.”|
“… advertising is part of a producer response to consumer demand.” [6,7]
|3. Any observed relationship between advertising and consumption is not causal||“There are no studies of alcohol advertising which can effectively trace the ‘effect’ of an ad from exposure through purchase to subsequent consumption behaviour. There is no reliable research which demonstrates a causal link between advertising and consumption” |
|4. Advertising does not promote or condone irresponsible or harmful drinking||“The Scotch Whisky industry takes seriously its commitment to marketing products to consumers in a responsible way. Responsible advertising is fundamental for Scotch Whisky producers.… …distillers are not looking for consumers at any cost”. |
|5. Young people: Advertising has no influence on young people, or on encouraging drinking in young or underage people||“Alcohol advertising and/or sports sponsorship do not target nor do they influence young people in their attitudes to drinking and drinking behaviour…” |
|Brand/Product||Year of Publication of Case Study|
|IPA ‘Advertising Works’ series|
|Campari: An evaluation of the effectiveness of the current Campari campaign (Vol 1)||1981|
|John Smith’s bitter (Vol 2)||1982|
|Hofmeister lager (Vol 3)||1985|
|Shakers cocktails (Vol 3)||1985|
|Paul Masson California Carafes (wine) (Vol 3)||1985|
|Country Manor (wine) (Vol 4)||1987|
|Castlemaine XXXX Lager (Vol 4)||1987|
|Miller Lite lager (Vol 5)||1990|
|Lanson Champagne (Vol 6)||1991|
|Croft Original sherry (Vol 6)||1991|
|Aberlour Whisky (Vol 6)||1991|
|Stella Artois lager (Vol 7)||1993|
|Boddingtons bitter (Vol 8)||1995|
|John Smith’s bitter (Vol 8)||1995|
|Marston’s Pedigree bitter (Vol 8)||1995|
|Stella Artois lager (Vol 9)||1997|
|Murphy’s Stout (Vol 9)||1997|
|Bud Ice lager (Vol 10)||1999|
|Bacardi Breezer (rum-based drink) (Vol 10)||1999|
|Famous Grouse whisky (Vol 10)||1999|
|Archers schnapps (Vol 11)||2000|
|Glenmorangie whisky (Vol 11)||2000|
|Stella Artois lager (Vol 12)||2003|
|Budweiser lager (Vol 12)||2003|
|Stella Artois lager (Vol 12)||2003|
|Famous Grouse whisky (Vol 15)||2007|
|Magners Cider (Vol 16)||2008|
|Johnnie Walker Whisky (Vol 17)||2009|
|Gordon’s gin (Vol 21)||2013|
|Foster’s lager (Vol 22)||2015|
|Scottish Advertising Works series (Vols 1-4)||1999-|
|Glenmorangie (Vol 1)||1999|
|Tennent Caledonian Breweries (Vol 2)||2001|
|Bowmore (Vol 2)||2001|
|Ardbeg (Vol 2)||2001|
|Scottish Leader whisky (Vol 3)||2003|
|Grolsch (Vol 3)||2003|
|Bowmore (earlier campaign) (Vol 3)||2003|
|Grolsch (Vol 4)||2005|
|The Level of the Effect||Mechanisms Identified in These Case Studies||Outcomes Seen in These Case Studies|
Key Individual-Level Outcomes
|Individual level: Psychological mechanisms||Advertising increases exposure to, and awareness of the product, through influencing the individual consumer’s attitudes, emotions, and through other psychological impacts (e.g., it can override existing preferences or beliefs). It is also described as strengthening consumer predisposition/affinity towards the brand, conveying perceptions of quality, changing attitudes, and acceptability, and “preparing” buyers before purchase.||This helps build an emotional bond with the brand, educates the consumer about the product/brand, and builds loyalty to the product or brand.|
|Advertising can promote changes in individual consumption behaviours: stimulate demand/consumption, stimulate trial of product, appeal to consumers friends.||Increased spend per purchaser, increased volume/frequency per customer, extension of drinkers’ drinking repertoires, increased range of drinking occasions, increased heavy use in existing drinkers (who may become heavy drinkers).|
|Brand/product effects||Advertising helps create/strengthen a brand and/or the product and its identity/personality/image. In particular, it can build/strengthen brand equity (brand equity: The value that a consumer attributes to a brand —e.g., reliability, quality, memorable etc.).||Through these mechanisms, advertising can reposition the product in the market, protect the brand, prevent decline in the brand, help premiumisation, support other promotions, and can be used to meet “unmet consumer need”.|
|Market-level effects||Advertising helps market segmentation and develops new markets, increases market share/penetration, and “share of voice”, develops new product categories, and builds the future market, increases product distribution, increases sales volume (volume growth and volume share), helps sustain growth, maintains or increases higher price/brand value, increases sales of non-advertised products, can involve spill-over to category, and can be used to block competition.||Through these mechanisms it can help recruit new drinkers, recruit younger drinkers, and increase rate of sale/purchase.|
|Parent company outcomes||These include the above mechanisms, advertising also creates property for future use.||Improves value of parent company, strengthens company profile, helps increase/maintain share prices.|
|Wider societal effects||These societal effects can be mediated through the above individual, and through market-level mechanisms.||Claimed effects in the case studies include providing employment, providing “role models”, “enhancing national pride” (e.g., “We’ve researched (Johnnie Walker’s 2008 campaign) Keep Walking all around the world, and seen it galvanise Thailand in the wake of the currency collapse, reinforce the pride in national progress of Brazil and China, provide role models for masculinity in the Middle East…”).|
|1. Alcohol Industry claim #1: Advertising primarily affects brand choice/market share||Advertising does influence market share, it is unclear whether it is its “primary” effect as the case studies show that it has many other intended outcomes|
|2. Advertising does not, and is not intended to, stimulate consumption||Highly unlikely. Evidence from these case studies shows that it aims to stimulate trial, increase drinking frequency, increase range of drinking occasions, target heavy drinkers, and recruit new drinkers|
|3. Alcohol Industry claim #3: Any observed relationship between advertising and consumption is not causal||Unlikely. There is detailed longitudinal evidence from industry case studies that the relationship is causal|
|Alcohol Industry claim #4: Advertising does not promote or condone irresponsible or harmful drinking||False. There is clear evidence from some case studies that advertising successfully targets heavy drinkers|
|Alcohol Industry claim #5: Advertising has no influence on young people, or on encouraging drinking in young people, or underage drinking||Unclear evidence regarding underage drinking (but see main text), however, there is evidence from these case studies that advertising frequently needs to recruit, and is targeted at, younger drinkers|
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Maani Hessari, N.; Bertscher, A.; Critchlow, N.; Fitzgerald, N.; Knai, C.; Stead, M.; Petticrew, M. Recruiting the “Heavy-Using Loyalists of Tomorrow”: An Analysis of the Aims, Effects and Mechanisms of Alcohol Advertising, Based on Advertising Industry Evaluations. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 4092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214092
Maani Hessari N, Bertscher A, Critchlow N, Fitzgerald N, Knai C, Stead M, Petticrew M. Recruiting the “Heavy-Using Loyalists of Tomorrow”: An Analysis of the Aims, Effects and Mechanisms of Alcohol Advertising, Based on Advertising Industry Evaluations. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2019; 16(21):4092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214092Chicago/Turabian Style
Maani Hessari, Nason, Adam Bertscher, Nathan Critchlow, Niamh Fitzgerald, Cécile Knai, Martine Stead, and Mark Petticrew. 2019. "Recruiting the “Heavy-Using Loyalists of Tomorrow”: An Analysis of the Aims, Effects and Mechanisms of Alcohol Advertising, Based on Advertising Industry Evaluations" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 16, no. 21: 4092. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214092