In life, human beings are exposed to a lot of advertisements. The average human sees about 20,000 commercials per year, and about 2,000 of these commercials are for alcoholic beverages. Just like most advertisers, alcoholic beverage companies study which consumer groups purchase the largest amount of their product. The advertisers target the groups of people that are large consumers in the advertisements that they produce. However, the advertisements also reach groups of people that were not targeted, such as children. Due to these eye catching and sexually arousing billboards, television commercials, and magazine advertisements, children may develop an inaccurate view of what alcohol really is.
In fact, research has found that, alcohol advertising does affect the attitudes and behaviors of young people. Adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14 see drinking as a positive activity due to role modeling (1). When they see older, attractive people having fun using alcohol, children develop a warped idea of what alcohol and being an adult is really like. The idea behind these advertisements is to present a behavior (drinking), and then reinforce that behavior with characters. This is done in advertisements by using characters who are more socially desirable than the intended audience, but who also resemble them in some ways. Alcohol companies try to keep that attitude alive. By having beautiful and socially desirable models in these ads, alcohol advertisers target females‘ and males‘ concerns about their physical appearance. However, it has been observed that exposure to unrealistically perfect people is not healthy for adolescents and can promote unhealthy standards of beauty. Adolescents will compare themselves to the advertisements and this can lead to extreme dieting, body dysmorphic disorder, or the use of unhealthy, body enhancing products and procedures (steroids, plastic surgery).
Alcohol products are very gender specific, especially in the manner and placements of the advertisements. For example, Budweiser is a well known sponsor of football games. I have noticed that there is a lack of Budweiser ads on the Oxygen network, Lifetime Television, or HGTV. Advertisers are in a lucrative business and they must think about who is willing to buy the product and how can an advertiser can encourage their consumers to consume! Advertisers go to extreme and even offensive tactics to get their product to stick out more than their competitors and make a name for itself that everyone will remember.
Alcohol advertisements play on and accentuate the stereotypes that exist in the male culture seen in individuals who are approximately 21-29 years old. For example, there is the stereotype of the jock. This character is excellent at athletics, tough, aggressive, and powerful. By demonstrating his strength, the jock wins the approval and admiration of other men, as well as the adoration of women. Another common character seen in alcohol advertisements is the action hero. The action hero is strong, aggressive, and at times violent. He is in control of the situation and is regarded as heroic and extreme. Again, men look up to him and women want to be with him. Another male stereotype to mention is the man who is regarded as a big shot. He is very successful, wealthy, and well liked. Advertisers play on the wants and needs of the insecure population. People, especially men, see the advertisements and somehow think that if they drink the product in the commercial, they too will become extraordinary individuals and the object of many women’s affection.Advertisements that are targeted for the male audience generally share at least one these characteristics; the presence of an attractive female, the man drinking the product is being lusted after by beautiful women, or a man who is extraordinarily popular and attractive.
Males are reportedly more visually oriented than females tend to be. Therefore, advertisers strive to find attractive women models. The women play similar character roles in alcohol commercials and advertisements. For example, there is the party girl who tends to attract attention due to her outgoing personality. She is usually the life of the party and everyone wants to be her or be friends with her. Then, there is the non-threatening, big busted, giggly, jiggly blond. She may demure or flirty, but she is sexualized and is the obvious center of attention for most males due to her physical appearance. There is also the character of a woman who dates many men as a method of empowerment. By dating several men at once, she is trying to show the world that she doesn’t want to settle down. In advertisements, there is also a stereotype of a female rebel. She is admired for her courage to be different and her carefree attitude. Females may want to embody any of the characteristics of these characters. Of course, all the females who are in the ads are extremely attractive and drinking the alcoholic beverage that is being promoted.
In many of the advertisements, male and especially female bodies are objectified, dismembered, and exploited. Unattractive females are portrayed poorly in advertisements, yet unattractive males are present. The ads use the most attractive models that they can to find to catch a man’s eye, but it leaves a lot of women feeling sorry that their body doesn’t look like the body of the girl in the vodka commercial. This can generate feelings of low self worth, low self esteem, and depression in females. Young females may have an idealized and unattainable idea of what they need to look like and how they need to act.
Lighter types of alcohol or liqueurs tend to have advertisements that target the female population. Magazines that have advertisements for females are usually magazines dedicated to females (and vice versa for male). Many advertisements may show things that a certain sex desires or finds attractive. Ads directed at females may show an idealized concept of a heterosexual relationship, beautiful women who resemble a modern day American woman, and pictures of the woman, or women, being the center of male attention.
Ice beer advertisements target almost only male audiences. Ice beer contains a greater percentage of alcohol than regular beer. Although size, age, tolerance level, amount of sleep, amount of food in the stomach, and the types of alcohol being consumed need to all be taken into account, men are generally more physically equipped to handle larger amounts of alcohol than a female will. Therefore, men will usually consume more ice beers than the female population would. Online you can find ads that feature happy, half naked women under the subtitle of „Red Hot Women, Ice Cold Beer“ or „Does your woman look like this (there is a smaller picture of a terribly obese and unattractive woman), drink a few Foster’s and she will soon look like this (and there is a large picture of a topless, attractive blonde). Obviously, that advertisement does not attract women and could even repel or offend women. However, men fall into the advertiser’s hands, and often go out and buy the product.
Even the colors of the packaging of alcohol are gendered. Common colors in beer packing are more masculine, such as red (Budweiser), green (Heineken), and blue (Coor’s Light). On strawberry daiquiri and Bahama Mama labels, they are often pink or red. Malibu is a rum that many people say is for women. Perhaps it’s due to the palm tree on the label or the yellow, pink, and orange colors.