IU Study: Anti-Drinking Ads Can Backfire

As John Young explained in the blog posting below, alcohol slows reaction times, impairs judgment, and leads to car wrecks with severe injuries. Alcohol abuse is a particularly serious problem among teenage and young adult motorists. But a study from Indiana University suggests that so-called responsible drinking ads produced by public health agencies and marketing firms that target college students can actually have the reverse effect.

According to study co-author Adam Duhachek, an IU marketing professor, “The conventional wisdom from people who design these ads is, ‘If we scare people enough it’s always going to be a good thing.’ We demonstrate circumstances where they [not only] aren’t effective, but they cause a backlash where people actually drink more than if they hadn’t been exposed to the ads.”  Apparently the study findings suggest that the commercials create a defensive mindset that enables viewers to distance themselves from the serious consequences of binge drinking–that it only happens to other people. According to Prof. Duhachek, “If you’re going to communicate a frightening scenario, temper it with the idea that it’s avoidable. It’s best to use the carrot along with the stick.”  The Journal of Marketing Research plans to publish the full study.

A provocative academic study is an interesting conversation starter. It may even lead to important improvements in how media messages about risky behaviors are crafted. However, in the real world right now, drunk drivers of all ages cause all kinds of havoc on Indiana’s roads, including fatal accidents. At Young and Young in Indianapolis, we are a family firm with a legal presence in Indiana for more than 100 consecutive years, and focused solely on injury accidents for the last 55. If you have been injured in a highway accident caused by a drunk driver, we stand ready to help.

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