Alcohol Advertisers Essay, Research Paper
What alcohol advertisers are failing to mention is the really scary statistics of alcohol consumption. Nearly 13 million US citizens are alcoholics and ten percent of all deaths in the United States are alcohol-related (Kilbourne,2). Because alcohol industry spends over two billion dollars annually on advertising, it is not desirable for media to discuss the hundred thousand alcohol-related deaths each year, as well as the role alcohol plays in violence (Kilbourne,3).
A very disturbing trend in alcohol advertising is the attempt to appeal to young people. Many teenagers become fascinated with alcoholic beverages way before their legal drinking age. The rise of alcohol advertising on the World Wide Web is rapid. There are no strict regulations of advertising on the Internet, which makes it easier for the alcohol industry to target younger generation. There are 25 companies on the web that target college students and teenagers by developing web sites that appeal to youth (Williams,1). “These companies use a blend of humor, hip language, interactive games and contests, lifestyle features about popular culture and art, along with web discussion forms that create a sense of community among web visitors” (Williams,1). Some of the examples are Stoli.com, Zima.com, Molson.com, and Cuervo.com. “The view the alcohol industry wants to promote through these web sites is that drinking is all fun and games, a risk-free activity; when, in fact, alcohol is a potentially addictive drug associated with massive personal and societal harm”(Williams, 3).
Alcohol industry is trying to appropriate drinking, making it increasingly acceptable social behavior. This task is largely achieved by advertising. According to Jean Kilbourne, there are seven myths the alcohol industry wants consumers to buy into. One of the myths is that you can not survive without alcohol. Without alcohol your life is not fun, it is boring and ordinary. Bacardi ad demonstrates that quality – “trading floor by day. Bacardi by night.” The intended reading of this ad is would be that you work hard and deserve to have fun. The man and the woman in the ad are dancing and smiling. The woman in the ad finds the man very attractive. She even overlooks the fact that he is not properly shaved. That delivers a message of alcohol being able to mask imperfections in anybody. It appears that they are having a great time, thanks to Bacardi. Revelstoke whisky also upholds this myth. “In Canada, the average paycheck rarely lasts two weeks. It’s more like twenty songs.” The ad features a middle-age man getting a lap dance from a woman in a bikini. This gentleman is having a wonderful time because of Revelstoke whisky and the exotic dancer at his lap. If it wasn’t for the whisky, he would have been utterly bored, trying to make his paycheck last two weeks. But thanks to Revelstoke, his problem is solved. Another myth the alcohol industry is trying to promote is that problem drinking is normal, which is also exemplified by Revelstoke ad. Small letters at the bottom of the page reads – “Strong, smooth whisky from a country that requires it.” Life in Canada is pretty intolerable, so Canadians created Revelstoke to get away from the harsh reality. At least that’s what the advertisers of Revelstoke would like us to believe. Apparently the man in this ad is not very happy with his life, if he is willing to spend his two-week paycheck on whisky and strippers. Whatever this man’s problem might be he is making himself feel better about it by consuming Revelstoke and forgetting about his problems. Yet another myth is that alcohol is a magic potion. Alcohol can make you popular, attractive, desirable, rich, successful and powerful. Pyrat rum and Drambuie are among the ads that support this myth. Pyrat rum’s tagline is “Ladies love outlaws”. It features Victoria Silvstedt (1997 playmate of the year), in a painted on bra, and an open robe. This ad is trying to make the readers believe that if they drink Pyrat rum, they will be perceived as outlaws, and courted by ladies such as Victoria. Drambuie ad’s caption reads “It’s when after-dinner turns into before breakfast.” In other words, with the help of Dambuie,you will appear more attractive and desirable to the opposite sex. Chances are you’ll even get lucky tonight. Due to the lack of illustrations in this ad, the viewer has a lot of room for imagination on how to spend the time between dinner and breakfast as long as there is enough of magic Drambuie.
Most alcohol ads use sex to sell their product. In some cases the use of sex is obvious and undeniable. Other ads, however are more ambiguous and less overt in expressing sexual connotations. Psychoanalytic criticism of media argues states that advertisers often use psychological devices to appeal to consumers. According to Freud, our aggressive and sexual impulses come to expression through symbolic representation, and thus avoid censorship. Symbols are often ambivalent, and can be determined by personal experience. However, there are universal symbols, in which the relationship between the symbol and the symbolized is intrinsic. (Berger, 67.) For instance, alcohol consumption is a universal symbol of loose, relaxed behavior that often leads to unplanned intimacy. Some of the symbols of sexual pleasure are dancing, riding, driving, flying etc. A female genitalia is represented by bottles, caves, gardens, flowers etc. In the Bacardi ad the man and a woman are dancing, and you can not really see their faces, so it is easier for the viewer to identify with the people in the ad. In the Perrier-Jouet ad, the bottle of champagne and the absolutely nude woman have the same flowers drawn on. It is not necessary to use sexual symbolism in this ad – the woman is nude as it is, but it is an interesting coincidence. “The process of distortion and disguise is the “dreamwork””(Berger,71). The Campari ad looks like a part of a dream – it is unclear what exactly is going on in this ad. The man and a woman are riding in a car; it is hard not to notice that they are in the back seat of Mercedes-Benz, which dictates some social statue stereotype. The bottle is integrated into the scene in a very strange manner. It is not even a whole bottle; it is just a screw-on cap covered with sweat-like bubbles and the label. I think it is designed to keep viewer guessing what that means, and how to interpret it. Much like a dream that we struggle to understand and interpret. This ad might also arise feelings of ambiguity.
Most alcohol ads appeal to the Id. “The impulsion to obtain satisfaction for the instinctual needs, in accordance with the pleasure principle” is one of the functions of the Id (Berger, 65.)
Some ads use sex that is “in your face” and apparent. Pyrat rum uses a half-naked blonde playmate, and a caption “Ladies love outlaws”. Martell’s ad features a beautiful, dark girl sitting in a bed in her lingerie. Her legs are spread, and the caption reads – “I can’t help it if I sometimes come on too strong, after all I am French.” The next page is a full spread of the same woman, lying on the bed finger by her mouth, wearing only underwear. “I am Martell.” According to Goffman, lying down is a “conventionalized expression of sexual availability”. The finger to mouth pose is considered childish. “This cognac is strong, sexy, subtle, beautiful and smooth; It is always available, and is waiting for you – much like this woman.” This could be one way of interpreting this ad. Skyy vodka ad is more subtle, but has a lot of sexual connotations. We could only see the woman from the waist down. She is wearing sexy, see-through pink slip with marabou trim, and marabou slippers. She is holding a bottle of vodka and two martini glasses – obviously she is going to serve herself and her gentleman a drink. The black cat is rubbing against her legs, with her tail up. This woman is a “sex kitten” – soft, furry, feminine and childlike. She is wearing pink – the color that baby girls wear. We are not shown her face, because the viewer can imagine the object of their desire in the face of this woman.
Some alcohol brands use humor with sexual connotations in their advertising. The Drambuie ad presents Drambuie as “the best part of the evening” – “it’s when after-dinner turns into before breakfast.” This appeals to the imagination of the consumer. Anything could occur between dinner and breakfast, with a little help of Drambuie. It is up to the consumer to personalize this ad, and imagine his or her ideal night. Chivas Regal’s ad uses humor about a matter that is not funny. It seems as if they are providing an excuse for undesirable behavior committed while under influence. They use humor to communicate “Hey, you were drunk, you couldn’t help it, it’s OK”.