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The Influence of Alcohol Advertisements on Social Norms

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Alcohol Advertising’s Influence on Social Norms

Alcohol has been a defining product of American consumerism for a very long time. Alcohols versatility, sociability, and availability are just some of the aspects of the product that make it so popular. Advertising for alcohol has become a paralleled image of society, and gives insight to the deeper problems of American culture through its assumptions, generalizations, and consistent patterns. Through the analyzation of various beer, vodka, and whiskey commercials a full picture of America’s current society can be created and analyzed.

Alcohol advertising brings in billions of dollars to the most successful and well-known companies annually (Rockow). The problem is alcohol can be dangerous. “Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with death and injury…” yet anyone is able to see these ads urging consumption of the harmful product, including those not of legal age (Pardun 97). Due to its persistent presence in advertising, alcohol ads have regulations that attempt to prevent furthering of underage usage and alcohol abuse (Pardun 91). Despite these principles, the messages, images, and undertones of alcohol ads can be damaging to the way people are treated and perceived daily.

Alcohol is meant for a good time. When people see alcohol ads, they see “the wonderful things that happen to those who drink, who are also good-looking, brave, glamorous…they lead adventurous lives” (Pardun 103). Corona has long been known for its signature lime garnished drink and has created an image associated with hot summer fun—seemingly harmless. However, Coronas’ “Gets its Lime” commercial plays deeply into the sexualization of women as well as the exclusion of certain age groups and sexual preferences. Throughout the commercial, bikini clad women are juxtaposed next to men working in the office. By having women solely present in social situations, when the men are done working and looking for a good time, there is a level of understanding and acceptance from the viewer that the man is the breadwinner and the woman is there to look nice for him. Undertones of the sexism this creates is still prevalent when looking into the current wage gap, as well as “gendered jobs” and overall attitude towards women in the work place (Pardun 131). Just as well, showing long legs, barely covered rears, and sensual smiles of women make them more like props than actresses when it goes no further than using them for their looks. Studies show “sexual objectification of women in advertisements conditions girls and women to view themselves as objects…this can lead to shame, disgust…” (Pardun 116). Women being used solely for their assets continues far past the 30 seconds of Corona-filled fun but rather perpetuates the perceived lack of importance of women in society.

The Corona ad features several different scenes with various groups of people all of which couldn’t have been older than 25. While the legal drinking age is 21, and those in their twenties do participate, they only make up a small percentage of the people actually seeing the commercial. Focusing on youthful looking people, especially with alcohol, is dangerous for underage viewers (Rockow). “Exposure to alcohol advertising has major effects on underage attitudes toward alcohol and perceptions of alcohols positives values…” (Pardon 102). It perpetuates a desire to drink illegally and irresponsibly in hopes to achieve the same level of fun, success, or beauty portrayed in the ad (Rockow). Several couples were also shown in the ad, all of which were heterosexual. Inclusion is important because it reminds society that all relationships are valid; when only straight couples continue to be portrayed, only straight couples continue to be accepted.

Similar problems continue in the Grey Goose and Cîroc commercials. Grey Goose shows a day out at a sea, black and white, and sensual. No faces are shown, the commercial focuses on the actions of the two straight lovers. However, the man is shown sailing, pulling ropes, cracking oysters, taking control. The woman is shown giving a back rub, laying out in a bikini, flirting. “For men these images provide unrealistic expectations…and a diminished appreciation for who these women can be…in their full humanity” (Pardun 117). Constant and perpetual images of women doing trivial tasks are the reasons why society still sees women as second class citizens.

In the Cîroc commercial, celebrities including rapper P. Diddy, Eva Pigford, Michael K. Williams, Aaron Paul, Dania Ramirez, and Jesse Williams party together in a stylish Las Vegas casino. The men are shown gambling, dancing, toasting and have a great time while the women, despite also being celebrities are simply something pretty for the men to sit next to. The women are just as famous and influential, but very clearly portrayed as less important in terms of their appearance in the ad.

Bud Lite released an ad encouraging the idea that at happy hour, co-workers become friends, and by drinking Bud Lite, this comradery can be achieved. This commercial, released in 2017, shows that the progression society has had over the recent years isn’t completely lost in alcohol advertising. For starters a woman was the main focus of the commercial. While this happens all the time, usually for a fruity cocktail or wine ad, there are several reasons this shows such immense progress. Beer is generally advertised as a man’s beverage, so using a woman amongst a co-ed set of co-workers progresses away from the idea that beer is a “manly” or “butch” drink (Rockow). It redefines the presumption that women don’t enjoy beer and opens up to a wider audience for both genders. Bud Lite opted out of sexualization and created an environment where women and men can co-exist without one being degraded for the sake of sales. The brands discussed earlier should take note of how this was achieved. This commercial represents a step away from the dependency American advertising has on using sexuality and gendered stereotypes to sell. It represented women “in a manner that was respectful and did not perpetuate negative ideas…” (Pardun 154). It introduces an idea of inclusiveness present in its multi-racial cast, and respected lead female role.

Bud Lite continues its streak of inclusive non-sexualization with an alternative ad that portrays a medieval setting. The ad portrays commoners gifting Bud Lite to the royals. When a man tries to give them anything else besides the beer, he is punished. There is a mixture of races and genders, and although the king rather than the queen does the talking and decision making, blatant sexualization or objectification of women does not occur. Bud Lite’s continued inclusivity with its ads could be what slowly turns the tables on what is “expected” in alcohol commercials, and what is assumed in real life.

Johnnie Walker uses an emotional portrayal of brotherly love. In the commercial, two men explore a beautiful land, assumed to be their childhood home. A voice over of a poem is read in sequence with the story being shown. The two men share a drink together and at the very end, when one man pours the ashes of the other over a cliff and the poem finished, the viewer realizes the sentiment the commercial portrays. It is heavy, emotionally, and beautifully done. It steers clear of any sort of sexualization, exploitation, opting for pathos instead (Rockow). The commercial positions Johnnie Walker as a drink for reminiscing. This is a far cry from the fun party scenes usually portrayed. The men are both young, but not young enough where they could be confused for being underage. This commercial presents the most un-problematic portrayal of drinking alcohol because it does not appeal to underage viewers as much as party scenes do. It is represented as a desirable drink, desirable to those who want to share memories and reminisce. An underage audience wouldn’t view this as appealing as they do when they view commercials that emphasize the “desirable, glamorous, brave, sexy images…that come to define alcohol” (Pardun 102). Although only men are portrayed, it does not come off as a sexist move to exclude women. Representing brotherly love is really only obtainable through using men and the lack of sexuality makes the ad relatable to anyone who has lost someone, not just males.

The messages and images advertising portray may not convince the audience to always buy, but it preserves and spreads stereotypes and assumptions long after the commercial airs (Pardun 124). A consistency in all the commercials discussed is the use of youth in the ads. Every single commercial portrayed young adults, all of which were no older than 35 at the very oldest. Youth and beauty are idolized and projected upon (Rockow). In advertising 16 to 25 year olds are marketed nearly the same—problematic for alcohol advertising when less than half of that age group is legally able to drink. By showing young beautiful people having fun, getting older is seen as a problem rather than a natural part of life (Rockow). Children and adults seeing the same ads, whether it is targeted for their age group or not, are all fed the same message (Pardun 26). For alcohol this makes the underage want to drink, and the older demographic inadvertently disassociated with anything considered to be meaningful. In today’s society, there is more open discussion regarding the exploitation of women in the media, but the continuation of this method in alcohol ads as well as other products, makes women’s appearances more important than anything else she has to offer. The misuse of age, gender and sexuality in advertising give a bleak explanation for the continued ignorance in today’s society; until advertising changes, society will not be able to.

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GradesFixer. (2018, October, 26) The Influence of Alcohol Advertisements on Social Norms. Retrived June 19, 2019, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-alcohol-advertisements-on-social-norms/
"The Influence of Alcohol Advertisements on Social Norms." GradesFixer, 26 Oct. 2018, https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/the-influence-of-alcohol-advertisements-on-social-norms/. Accessed 19 June 2019.
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