Alcohol Ads in Rolling Stone Magazine

Alcohol Ads in Rolling Stone Magazine


Imagine flipping through the pages of your favorite magazine.  You probably pay little attention to the numerous advertisements scattered throughout the articles and photographs.  How much of an impact and influence do these ads actually have on Americans?

Alcohol has been and remains a major health problem in the United States.  Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, causing a number of serious health problems.  “Short-term effects of excessive alcohol intake may include impaired judgment and coordination, distorted vision, slurred speech, nausea, and blackouts,” said Delaney (1998).  Large quantities of alcohol can even result in death from alcohol poisoning.  “The long-term health risks of heavy drinking include hypertension, stroke, cirrhosis of the liver, heart problems, brain and nerve damage, sexual dysfunction, and stomach ailments (Delaney).


According to Delaney, in a CNN online article, alcohol is the number one risk of college-age Americans.  Over 44 percent of college students participate in binge drinking (Delaney).  “On average, at least 50 of these students die from binge drinking each year,” said Delaney.

A number of popular magazines target their advertisements toward the younger generation.  These alcohol and tobacco ads are aimed at the high school and college students.  Rolling Stone is one of the most well-liked and trendy modern music magazines.  It focuses on all the latest music artists, from hip-hop to country western.  Featuring news, information, and pictures on a wide variety of bands and celebrities.

Recently, there has been a debate over whether or not it is right to target American youth, considering the provocative, misleading drug and alcohol ads in Rolling Stone.  In some instances, the magazine has been banned from a number of school libraries due to the inappropriate content of its advertisements (Blake, P 2002).  According to a September 4th interview, one high school principal believes the “magazine’s articles and advertising promote violence, immoral sexual activity, and drug and alcohol abuse” (Blake).

In the year of 2002, Rolling Stone magazine portrayed alcohol as the popular, sophisticated thing to drink.  Ads also showed that if one consumes alcoholic beverages, they would appear more sexually attractive to members of the opposite sex.  Sex appeal sells in American Society, and especially among the younger generation.  A number of these advertisements gave the reader the idea that if they drank alcohol, they would make friends, and have a good time since it is considered a “party drug.”  Many of the ads gave the impression that their beverage would be cool and refreshing.  Other techniques used to sell their products were portraying them as relaxing, or a way to unwind.  Humorous cartoons were even pictured in a few advertisements.

Another popular technique to sell products in a money-driven society, such as ours, is by offering the customer a chance to “win” sweepstakes if they purchase the product.  I did not even know that marketers used this approach in their alcohol ads until I opened the issues of Rolling Stone.  There were a number of “free offers” such as recipes to mix your own cocktails.  In a “Bacardi” rum advertisement, there was a four-page, fold out section that offered everything from the top “pick-up lines” to the best drink recipes.

In a fast-paced, ever-changing society, competition is fierce, and Americans strive to be the best, have the latest products, and partake in the latest trends.  The liquor ads are no exception.  Since the magazine is based on popular celebrities, it is no surprise that their advertisements give the reader a “glamorous” picture of alcohol.  I found that the greatest number of ads focused on portraying alcohol as the thing to drink, and they featured the newest, most popular beverages.

Out of the one hundred twenty-six advertisements viewed, forty of them gave the impression that their product was the latest, trendiest, up-to-date one on the market.  A prime example of this was “Ciclon” – the “New tequila-spiked rum” featured in the October thru December 2002 issues of Rolling Stone.  With bright colors swirling around a huge glass of alcohol, and an emphasis on the size of the word “new,” the reader gets the impression that this is the latest craze in liquor.  The bright colors also contributed to the idea that if one drinks this, they will have fun.

“Jim Beam Black Whiskey” prefers to be known as the “better bourbon.”  This company emphasizes the superior feeling of drinking only the “finest” quality bourbon.  Their ad was simple and elegant, showing a male and female figure together at the bar with glasses of liquor.  Many of the ads encompassed a number of advertising techniques to appeal to younger, as well as middle-aged audiences.  The sex appeal apparently targeted people in their early twenties to late thirties but also influences the younger generation.

This carefree, party-life was the next leading impression the advertisers tried to create.  Twenty-six of the ads focused on this, many of them even using the words “fun” and “party.”

Twenty-two of the ads pictured a giant-sized, cold frosty, beverage or glass with beads of water dripping down the side.  Using alcohol as a way of quenching thirst was another way to sell it, adding another dimension.  Many of the “Doc Otis” malt beverages pictured a huge bottle of “lemonade” type liquid, such as in the summer issues of the magazine.


Although some of the other ads had sex appeal, only 18 focused mainly on that topic as a way to sell the product.  This was often combined with the observation of a way to increase one’s popularity.  “Skyy” vodka advertisements were a prime example of one that included making the reader more popular with the opposite sex, as well as giving them more friends.  Skyy Vodka ads were the most promiscuous, featuring scantily clad women in bathing suits and well-dressed, attractive men.  The people in these articles always wore little but a big smile across their faces.

No matter what the type, it was evident that alcohol ads were prevalent in Rolling Stone magazine in the year of 2002.  Filled with the opportunity to be the center of attention, fresh, and popular, these ads fill the reader’s head with misleading ideas.



Delaney, B.  “Alcohol Still Top Health Risk To College Students.”  CNN Online.  Nov. 23, 1998.

Blake, P.  “Rolling Stone Magazine To Remain At Park High.”  Librarian and Information Science News.  Sept. 15, 2002

Rolling Stone magazines Jan. 2002- Dec. 2002


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