Content Themes of Alcohol Advertising in U.S. Television-Latent Class Analysis

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2015 Sep;39(9):1766-74. doi: 10.1111/acer.12811. Epub 2015 Jul 24.


Background: There is little alcohol research that reports on the thematic contents of contemporary alcohol advertisements in U.S. television. Studies of alcohol ads from 2 decades ago did not identify "Partying" as a social theme. Aim of this study was to describe and classify alcohol advertisements aired in national television in terms of contents, airing times, and channel placements and to identify different marketing strategies of alcohol brands.

Methods: Content analysis of all ads from the top 20 U.S. beer and spirit brands aired between July 2009 and June 2011. These were 581 unique alcohol ads accounting for 272,828 (78%) national television airings. Ads were coded according to predefined definitions of 13 content areas. A latent class analysis (LCA) was conducted to define content cluster themes and determine alcoholic brands that were more likely to exploit these themes.

Results: About half of the advertisements (46%) were aired between 3 am and 8 pm, and the majority were placed either in Entertainment (40%) and Sports (38%) channels. Beer ads comprised 64% of the sample, with significant variation in airing times and channels between types of products and brands. LCA revealed 5 content classes that exploited the "Partying," "Quality," "Sports," "Manly," and "Relax" themes. The partying class, indicative of ad messages surrounding partying, love, and sex, was the dominant theme comprising 42% of all advertisements. Ads for alcopops, flavored spirits, and liqueur were more likely to belong to the party class, but there were also some beer brands (Corona, Heineken) where more than 67% of ads exploited this theme.

Conclusions: This is the first analysis to identify a partying theme to contemporary alcohol advertising. Future analyses can now determine whether exposure to that or other themes predicts alcohol misuse among youth audiences.

Keywords: Adolescence; Advertising; Alcohol; Content Analysis; Television.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Advertising / economics
  • Advertising / methods*
  • Alcohol Drinking / economics
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholic Beverages* / economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Television* / economics
  • United States