Friday, January 23, 2015

Alcohol Product Advertising and Public Policy

The alcoholic beverage industry is more highly regulated than many others because of long-standing concerns about vulnerable people. Both industry self-regulatory practices and government regulations are largely based on concerns about the risks of excessive consumption and the need for consumers to reach a level of physical and social maturity before becoming consumers.

When it comes to alcohol product advertising, the key restrictions involve voluntary self-regulation by industry. For example, websites for alcoholic beverages often voluntarily limit access to people who claim they are of legal drinking age. And, both the Distilled Spirits Council and the Beer Institute recommend advertising be placed "only where at least 71.6 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be of legal purchase age." The Wine Institute similarly recommends 70 percent as their industry guideline.

That such restrictions on alcohol product advertising are necessary was particularly well demonstrated this week by a new health communication study published by JAMA Pediatrics.  The study is titled, "Cued Recall of Alcohol Advertising on Television and Underage Drinking Behavior." It was a two-year longitudinal study conducted by highly qualified researchers from Dartmouth University, Brown University, and Kiel Germany.

One key finding of this panel study is that underage viewers of television advertising are only slightly less likely than persons of legal age to have seen alcohol advertising. This points to a paradox concerning the 70 to 72 percent industry guideline. When applied to single advertisements, the voluntary guidelines may seem reasonable, yet collectively, the total amount of advertising by the alcohol product industry can be seen as overwhelming the underage audience. For example, even if the underage audience for one individual advertisement is let's say 10 percent, continuing exposure to the many other alcohol product advertisements will still result in very high media reach and frequency of exposure to the underage audience. The study shows the need to adjust the 70 to 72 percent industry guideline to a much higher level.

The television audience demographics and traditional advertising line-up for the Super Bowl underscore the concern about the voluntary guidelines. Recent Nielsen audience data for the Super Bowl show that about 30 percent of the youth ages 10 to 21 are watching the game.

This figure from a February 12, 2010 Nielsen Newswire public relations release shows that the 2010 Super Bowl was viewed by about 25 percent of youth ages 10 to 13; about 30 percent of youth ages 14 to 17 and about 33 percent of youth ages 18 to 21 (see area of the added red dotted lines). Clearly, from a media planning perspective, this annual broadcast can be seen as providing gateway access to the youth audience. Such a possibility is amplified when one recognizes that the most commonly employed narrative content of alcohol product advertising during this event involves imagery of particular interest to youth: emotive animal stories and slapstick comedy. Indeed, such advertising is traditionally among the most recalled and most liked shown during the event.

Now, much more is revealed by the new health communication study. For example, one frequently heard observation is that alcoholic beverage advertising is designed only to influence brand choice and brand loyalty and not to influence the decision to drink. Yet, this new study finds that "familiarity with and responses to images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults."

The need for "scientific fact-based" public policy is an often heard phrase these days. When it comes to the effects of alcohol product advertising, there is a substantial body of literature, and the facts seem pretty clear.

Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Sense in Super Bowl Advertising

Now that the teams are set for this year's big game, let's take a look at the reason the Super Bowl exists at all.

The single reason, simply put, is to assemble a large audience for advertising. People don't just field professional athletic teams for fun, or for the glory of sport. It is a business, and this business is largely based on advertising revenue.

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assemble large audiences for advertising. When it comes to mass media, members of the public have a great many interests and an increasing plethora of what to view.

Indeed, continuing advances in information technology are amplifying this trend with an ever-increasing range of delivery systems and increasing efficiencies of operation. As a result, audiences for mass media programming are becoming increasingly fragmented.

When it comes to advertising, large businesses seek the quickest ways to inform and influence the greatest numbers of people. After all, the very purpose of advertising is to make things happen faster in the marketplaces of goods and ideas.

The pre-eminent metric for advertising audiences is the cost per thousand households. This metric is known as CPM. The "M" in this advertising industry abbreviation is for the Roman Numeral for one thousand, otherwise the concept would of course more simply be "CPT."

Today, in the United States, the average CPM for commercials placed on prime-time television network programs is about 25 dollars per 1,000 households. According to the Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB), the current average cost of a 30-second network prime-time commercial is about $112,000 and the audience consists of about 4.5 million households.

Now, if your goal is to reach a substantial proportion of the public, you quickly come to the realization that 4.5 million households is only about 4 percent of the total 115 million households in the United States.

So, to reach a greater proportion of US households, large-scale advertisers put together plans to use more media in more places to reach more people. For example, with about a $4 million budget, an advertiser could place a 30-second commercial on a selection of local television stations throughout the top 100 markets in the United States to assemble a prime time total audience of about 100 million households. The CPM for such a plan would be about 37 dollars per 1,000 households.

However, one limitation of such a so-called "spot television" schedule is the considerable range in the programming contexts for the commercial in the many markets across the nation and the varying degrees of audience attention levels.

Enter the Super Bowl. With the wide-spread public interest in sports programming, the Super Bowl provides an efficient opportunity to reach almost half of the households in the United States at the same moment of time and when they have a high degree of interest in both the sports event and the advertising.

The 2014 Super Bowl reached about 48 percent of the households in the United States, and with 115 million total viewers this amounted to the largest ever US television audience. Accordingly, with a cost of about $4.2 million for a 30-second commercial, the CPM for the 2014 game was about $80 per 1,000 households (or about $39 per 1,000 viewers).

Now, it is apparent that $80 per 1,000 households for the Super Bowl is over twice the $37 level of a comparably priced spot television plan targeted at the top 100 markets in the US. But, the Super Bowl is the most widely watched program in any given year, and the differential is a premium advertisers are willing to pay for immediate reach to such a substantial proportion of the nation.

Indeed, during the Super Bowl the audience sometimes views the advertising as more interesting than the game. And, there is all the hoopla and social media hype leading up to the game that can set the stage for highly productive marketing promotions in connection with the sponsors' commercials.

Bottom line, sports programming currently provides a productive means of assembling mass media audiences. So, when it comes to scoring big as a national advertiser, the Super Bowl means "game on."

In 2015, investing $4.5 million in a 30-second Super Bowl commercial can still make a lot of sense.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Advertising and Realization

Admirable advertising should make people think.

In this new video for 2015 Black History Month, the NBA presents a remarkable message that is simple yet complex.

We hear the voice of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his words of hope for all people. Listening to his words, a realization can take place about the meaning of his message as we see individual achievements within an institution dedicated to progress.


This remarkable message invites us to a realization about the profound depth of the wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.

 Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Psychology of Advertising - Year Seven

Welcome to the 7th year of my blog on the Psychology of Advertising. My first posts were made in January, 2009. The objective remains to provide conceptual observations about current events in advertising and point out helpful sources for thinking about advertising.

I began this blog when I was teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in the Psychology of Advertising at the University of Minnesota. This course has a long tradition at the University of Minnesota.  In the 1890s , Harlow Gale, then a faculty member in the Philosophy Department at the University of Minnesota, taught a seminar he called Psychology of Advertising. Today, Gale is acknowledged as the first person to conduct scientific studies of the effects of advertising.

People everywhere like to study advertising, and so this blog is meant for anyone interested in advertising. Indeed, since January of 2009 , over 52,000 people in 135 countries have read one or more of my 210 postings.

My most widely read post concerns the "Strategic Power of the Theory of Trying." This post is now one of the most widely read resources on the Web concerning the Theory of Trying. You can easily find it by searching the Web for Theory of Trying or by looking for my post made on August 17, 2010. Please see the listing My Virtual Textbook on the right-hand column of this page for an index of all my posts.

The remaining top ten posts are:

2.  Why People Like Advertising - February 17, 2010
3. Thoughts, Feeling and Action - April 19, 2011
4. The Discipline of Account Planning - August 22, 2013
5. Advertising and American Core Values - September 1, 2013
6. Celebrate to Sell - July 1, 2013
7. Strategic Power of the Theory of Planned Behavior - March 7, 2013
8. Advertising and Energy- June 4, 2013
9. MNsure Shows Way to Effective Healthcare Advertising - August 20, 2013
10. Brand Persona as Constant Friend - December 17, 2013

In 2015, I am looking forward to continuing my posts reflecting on the latest worldwide happenings in advertising and placing them in useful conceptual perspectives.  

Welcome to Psychology of Advertising.

  Copyright © 2015 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advertising Is Education

If advertising can be said to be education, here is a commercial with many lessons.


The most admirable advertising teaches us first to feel, then to think, perchance to buy.

In this commercial from Hong Kong's prestige watch maker Solvil et Titus, we learn the significance of gift-like acts. Indeed, depicting the gift via the abstraction of an ink drawing gives genuine depth to the message.

In this love story about Audrey and Tom, we learn that messages can transcend class. Audrey departs with parents in a luxury car, while Tom remains in the care of a local policemen who rides a bicycle. Perhaps the kindly policeman is the boy's father, or perhaps he arrived at the behest of the store owner. We don't know.

With repeated viewings, we learn to appreciate the power of nuanced messages. This message can be likened to "rich media" with its many layers of meaning as we notice further details that enrich the story.

There are indeed many lessons to learn from this commercial. Remember them forever.

Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Living Up To Advertising

Advertising is serious business. Better advertising is based on the core values of the company. These values can serve as the basis for enduring relationships with customers.

This 1971 classic Schlitz beer commercial shows how the brand stood behind the values of hard work, family and friendship. Archetypical stories reminded consumers to make the most of their lives.


Unfortunately, the brand lost its status as the number one beer in America.

In the kinds of cost-cutting moves that have become commonplace throughout industry, the company behind the brand failed to deliver on its core values. A series of product modifications designed to reduce materials costs and struggles with labor to reduce manufacturing costs took the "gusto" out of the brand. One might even say the company management took the "gutso" out of the brand.

By the end of the 1970s consumers came to recognize that Schlitz beer no longer lived up to the brand promise so admirably communicated by the advertising. This is an important lesson from a generation ago that remains strikingly significant today.

  Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Adventageous Advertising

The challenge of making a holiday commercial is to meld a message with an emotional or heartwarming story line.

Indeed, brands often try to out-do each other and their past-years' work attempting to wrap an emotional punch around a selling package.

Here, Samsung takes a light-hearted approach to charm us with the fun of the season.


The commercial succeeds as a personal story featuring actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard who are really married to each other.

It is a product line commercial and the advantages of Samsung technology are easily and clearly demonstrated throughout. As a window on their lives, it is also a celebrity endorsement commercial.

Copyright © 2014 by John Eighmey. All Rights Reserved.