NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse
There have been a number of empirical studies on the effects of tobacco and alcohol advertising. The bulk of these studies indicate that advertising does not increase tobacco and alcohol consumption. However, many public health advocacy organizations do not accept these results. An examination of the methods and data commonly used in empirical studies provides an explanation for these divergent opinions. The key to understanding the empirical problems lies in the advertising response function and the type of data used to measure advertising.
Credit: Collaborative Research on Addiction at NIH
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The one other common type of research on advertising is the study of advertising bans. The effect of a ban on the use of one or more media is substitution into the remaining non-banned media and into other marketing techniques. This does not necessarily reduce advertising expenditures. Bans can, however, lower the average product of a given advertising budget. Advertising and other marketing expenditures may increase to compensate for the loss of sales attributable to the downward shift of the response function. If the bans are comprehensive enough, they may reduce consumption. The empirical work finds some evidence that bans do reduce consumption.
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Counteradvertising, which is designed to reduce consumption, also fits into the framework of a response function. The counteradvertising response function slopes downward and is subject to diminishing marginal product. The levels of counteradvertising that have been undertaken are small in comparison to advertising. Thus it is likely that these expenditures are in the falling portion of the counteradvertising response function. The empirical work finds evidence that counteradvertising does reduce consumption.