Instead, their main aim is to encourage increased usage of a particular brand by those who already consume alcohol, and to encourage brand loyalty. In other words, the main objective is market share. Advertisers who reach their goals gain market share at the expense of others in the same market, who lose share. The total market for the product is not increased.
Hanson uses a practical example from the United States to illustrate the reasons why advertisers do not focus on increasing the total alcohol market. He notes that the total market value of beer per year in the United States is about $50 billion. If a beer company increases its market share within this market by 1%, this would amount to a $500 million increase in sales. An increase of the total beer market by 1%, on the other hand, would mean an increase of only $50 million in sales for a brand with 10% share of the total market. Hence, in terms of the bottom line, it makes far more sense for alcohol producers to focus on increasing their particular market share than the total market for alcohol, which would result in even less sales revenue than an increase of only one type of alcohol market. Hence, it is far more profitable for a producers to focus their efforts on existing alcohol consumers, with the aim of strengthening brand loyalty within existing customers and seeking to encourage other alcohol consumers to switch to their brand. One might assume that this is as true for Australia as it is for the United States.
In the more specific case of Australia, one should also pay attention to the current regulations on advertising when responding to those who believe that alcohol advertising influences the young. To regulate the use and advertising of alcohol in Australia, the ABAC scheme (2009) has implemented a number of restrictions. Part 1, Section a specifically prohibits such advertising from targeting those under 18. It also specifically forbids advertising that encourages the "excessive use, misuse, or abuse" of the substance. The only advertising that is allowed, in fact, is that which encourages the responsible and mature use of alcoholic substances. Furthermore, those appearing in such advertisements are required to be at least 25 years or older and clearly depicted as responsible adults (ABAC, 2009). With such clear restriction, surely it cannot be claimed by any stretch of the imagination that these advertisements encourage abuse of the substance or underage drinking. Any advertising that does so is against the law.
Despite the prevalence of alcohol advertising, research entities such as DSICA (2011) have found a decrease in overall alcohol consumption by Australians during the years 2008-2009. Furthermore, overall alcohol consumption per capita per year in the country has also been found to be far lower in the new millennium than it was during the 1970s, again, despite the prevalence of advertising. Hence, the data appear to support the earlier mentioned research that alcohol advertising does indeed not focus on increasing usage, but rather increasing the usage of a particular brand.
What is interesting about claims that alcohol advertising influences underage drinking in Australia is the fact that no statistical or research information is provided to provide any substance to such claims. On the other hand, there is an overwhelming amount of information available to suggest that advertising has little or no influence over the amount of alcohol an individual tends to consume, since this is not the main purpose of such advertising. For these reasons, it is unlikely that a ban on alcohol advertising will change any of the existing drinking habits in Australia. Those who wish to discourage the abuse of alcohol and underage drinking will need to recognize that other underlying factors, including psychological and genetic issues, underlie such habits. Advertising focuses on encouraging brand loyalty.
DSICA (Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia, Inc., 2011). Australian Alcohol Consumption. Retrieved from: http://www.dsica.com.au/content/detail/australian_alcohol_consumption
FARE (Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, 2012). Alcohol Advertising. Retrieved from: http://www.fare.org.au/research-development/community-polling/annual-alcohol-poll-2012/alcohol-advertising/