Sat, Apr

Booze on Billboards: Marketing to LA’s Kids?


BILLBOARD POLITICS--In 2006, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the results of a large-scale study of the effects of alcohol advertising on youth drinking. The conclusion: Exposure to alcohol advertising on TV, radio, and billboards contributes to increased drinking by underage youth, which in turn contributes to such problems as poor grades in school, risky sex, alcohol addiction, and car crashes. (Photo above: Billboard just a building away from a community center for low-income youth.)   

Other research has confirmed this link between advertising and increased youth drinking. Yet billboard companies continue to place prominent ads for alcohol in proximity to places where young people congregate. A case in point is the Outfront Media billboard pictured above, which is just a door away from Venice Arts, a community arts center for low-income youth on Lincoln Blvd. in Venice.

Was placement of that ad for Coors Light where it would be seen by many young people under the drinking age just a coincidence? Or deliberate? Less than a block away are a public phone with a Bud Light ad and a doubled-sided Lamar Advertising billboard that has displayed at least four alcohol ads in the past several years. More coincidence? 

As pointed out in an earlier article, this stretch of Lincoln Blvd. is a daily route for students at Animo Venice Charter High school who arrive by bus from other parts of the city and walk the street to and from the campus. Which means more exposure for the alcohol advertising, intended or not.

The Outfront Media billboard now displaying the Coors Light Ad also appears to be have been significantly enlarged in violation of the city’s sign code. According to city records, the sign was permitted in 1969 with two 12 ft. By 25 ft. faces. But inspection records show that the face with the alcohol ad is 26 ft. By 25 ft., or more than 100 per cent larger.

The Lamar Advertising billboard may also violate a sign code section prohibiting billboards from extending over a public sidewalk.

One certainty is that the placement of these signs violates the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s Code of Industry Principles, which states that ads for products illegal for sale to minors will be kept a “reasonable distance” from places where those young people congregate. On the other hand, perhaps Outfront Media considers the few steps from the billboard to the door of the youth center a “reasonable distance.”

 (Dennis Hathaway is the president of the Ban Billboard Blight Coalition and a CityWatch contributor. He can be reached at: [email protected].


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