Know! The Importance of Media Literacy

Were you one of the millions who tuned-in to the Super Bowl of commercials? Was your child? If so, he or she was exposed to alcohol advertising, and plenty of it.

When middle and high school students across the nation voted on their favorite Super Bowl ads as part of the Big Bowl Vote, it was no surprise the Budweiser Clydesdale ad ranked among the favorites. The story of the Clydesdale growing up, but never forgetting the “brother” who raised him, stole hearts of all ages. This alcohol ad placed third favorite among the high school crowd and fourth favorite among the middle school group. And when students were asked what brand products they remember being advertised during the Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch was the second highest recalled brand for all students.

What does this mean? Research reveals that young people are drawn to advertising that features animal and people characters, tells a story and makes them laugh. If the target demographic for Doritos and Taco Bell is middle and high school aged youth, the advertiser was right on mark. But what about the Budweiser Clydesdale ad: cute animal, warm-hearted story, feel-good ending. What’s not to like? Intended audience or not, this one caught the attention of the young viewers.

Does this mean more kids will now start drinking alcohol because they liked the ad? Maybe. According to a study where researchers investigated alcohol advertising to learn what makes it attractive to youth, the alcohol ads that young people found to be appealing were more likely to elicit responses from them saying they wanted to purchase the brand and products advertised. We also know that the more youth are exposed to alcohol advertising, the more likely they are to drink (drink to excess and drink more often).

The Big Bowl Vote revealed the Budweiser Clydesdale ad to be overwhelmingly appealing to the younger audience. And research has shown that increased exposure plus youth appeal equals an increase in underage drinking overall. While parents and peers have significant influence on a child’s decision to drink, so too does alcohol advertising and marketing.

This is not the last of the Clydesdale or other appealing alcohol ads our children will see. Youth will continue to be flooded by this and other alcohol ads on their computers, televisions, billboards and radio. While we cannot possibly shield them from every alcohol advertisement, we can make it a Teachable Moment, by helping them to decode the advertising message through Media Literacy.

Simply put, Media Literacy is the ability to read between the lines of advertising to recognize the influence of media messages. Children who are media literate can look and listen with a critical eye and ear, helping them to make healthier lifestyle choices and avoid the pressures fueled by media messages to drink, smoke or use other drugs.
For a quick and simple exercise to get this important conversation started, click here
Want to dig deeper? Visit The Center for Media Literacy at: www.medialit.org.

Want to see the Big Bowl Vote 2013 results in full? Visit DrugFreeActionAlliance.org.

Sources: DFAA Big Bowl Vote 2013. Center for Media Literacy. HealthDay – News for Healthier Living: Do TV Liquor Ads Drive Kids to Drink? 2013.