Like advertising for cigarettes, ads that feature alcoholic beverages are sometimes seen as potentially dangerous and are therefore heavily regulated within the advertising industry. Namely, regulation seeks to prevent the “glamorization” of drinking alcohol and avoid those under the age of 21 from being exposed to ads for alcoholic beverages. For instance, ads for alcohol are only allowed to be aired on television if at least 70% of that show or networks audience is estimated to be of age.
However, some people think that these regulations do not go far enough, as children may be exposed to alcohol ads at a rate much higher than desired. According to a recent study in Ireland, 90% of children ages 13-17 who were surveyed had been exposed to alcohol ads in the week prior to the study. It also found that 53% of children ages 13-15 had consumed alcohol before. It should be noted that there are a lot of problems with this study, as it was sponsored by the Irish coalition group Alcohol Action Ireland and is almost certainly biased. Also, they make no distinction between amounts of alcohol that those 53% of kids aged 13-15 may have consumed, as there is clearly a significant difference between binge drinking and having a sip of wine that your parents gave you. That said, it’s interesting to see how much some people think ads for alcohol (and advertisements in general) lead to bad behavior. They very well could, but there are surely other factors involved as well.
It is also interesting to consider how the regulations of advertisements have gotten more stringent over time. Many ads–like those for cigarettes and alcohol–are highly regulated. However, (as I mentioned in a previous post) ads for things like prescription drugs are hardly regulated at all and are illegal in almost all Western countries. In Dickens’ time, advertisements definitely leaned towards the unregulated side of things. As we saw in many of the advertisers that we looked at, ads for things like “elixirs” and other drugs were very common and completely unregulated (much like the production of the drugs themselves), even though these products likely do not provide any real benefit. In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 20th century that agencies began to establish guidelines for the regulation of advertising. It would be quite interesting to see how Dickens’ advertisers would have been different if these regulations had been in place at the time.