When Facebook Makes You Reach For The Booze

Study suggests social media beer ads work pretty well.

BY Jason S Ganesan | Jun 6, 2016 | Opinion

Focus Features

Time was when ‘beer advertisement’ meant being sat in the cinema and being given a 30-second glimpse of fictional attractive people living expensive lives, with the promise that a golden liquid will be a close but significantly cheap approximation of that lifestyle. 


But no more. With alcohol companies in certain countries being pressured to move their advertising away from traditional media, the shift towards social media advertising may actually be working to their advantage. This is because—as the brilliantly-titled study “Saw It on Facebook, Drank It at the Bar!” shows—it works. 


The college-aged participants in the study were divided into two groups: one viewing beer ads, and another water ads, both on Facebook. As payment for taking part in the study, participants from both groups were asked to choose between USD10 vouchers for either a café or a bar. The study found that those from the beer group were far more likely to choose bar vouchers. 


It needs to be noted that the correlation between exposure to alcohol on social media and drinking among young people has already been shown. A 2014 study, for instance, showed that high school students who had more Facebook posts related to alcohol generally scored higher on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT). 


Chief researcher Saleem Alhabash told Michigan State University Today that unlike beer ads on TV—which, by the way, has been shown to have negligible impact on youthful drinking—social media blurs the lines between different types of content. 


“On social media, the line that distinguishes an ad from regular content is very fine. On TV, most can recognise an ad from a regular show. That’s not always the case on social media,” Alhabash said.