Values and Alcohol Advertising, p.
Values and Alcohol Advertising: The influence of values on radio station
managers' clearance of alcohol-related advertisements
A. Joseph Borrell
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Pennsylvania
3620 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-2024 (fax)
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
Values and Alcohol Advertising, p.
Values and Alcohol Advertising: The influence of values on radio station
managers' clearance of alcohol-related advertisements
This study finds that a general manager's age, belief in professional values and
college major predicted his or her willingness to accept advertisements for
alcohol-related products and businesses. The most powerful variable in
explaining the differences in clearance of these controversial advertisements
was found to be the personal ethical values of the manager, including his or her
concern for the audience.
Values and Alcohol Advertising, p.
In their classic media management text, Quaal and Martin (1968, p. 28)
define the characteristics of a good media manager: "The station manager must be
a man of good character_The manager should be a religious person who has
humility and (in the broad sense) depth of character." Though this definition is
dated (and sexist), it still represents the contemporary view that, due to the
special influence mass communicators have with the public, a great deal of
responsibility and self-control is expected of media professionals in return. To
Quaal and Martin, a distinguishing characteristic of good media professionals is
their belief in values.
As Limburg (1989) has noted, the deregulation of the broadcasting field and
the demise of the broadcasting code have meant that more responsibility has been
placed on broadcasters to self-regulate their conduct. Just as broadcasters are
responsible for the programs they produce or distribute, so are they responsible
for the commercials that air between these shows (excepting the narrow field of
political advertisements). Advertising clearance has been described as the
"decision made by individual media vehicles to accept, reject or request
substantiation of ad claims" (Wicks & Abernethy, 1997). For example, the failure
of television stations to adequately screen time-buyers has led to a rash of
losses from audience members who were unwittingly victims of financial scams or
purchasers of medical products of dubious efficacy that were advertised on local
Another area where some activists and politicians believe the audience
deserves protection is in the field of alcohol beverage advertising over the
public airwaves. The long self-imposed ban on the broadcast of advertisements
for hard liquor has ended. Broadcast outlets across the country have been
approached by manufacturers of hard liquor like Seagram's and Bacardi and asked
to carry these controversial advertisements. Though proposals have been made in
Congress and the Federal Communication Commission for an outright ban on hard
liquor advertisements, at this time, such commercials air at the discretion of
each station and its management (Beatty & Gruley, 1996; Beatty, 1997a; Beatty,
The controversy also extends to other alcoholic beverages and services.
Recently, a proposal was made to the Federal Communications Commission by the
National Woman's Christian Temperance Union and other alcohol activist groups
for the commission to require that the v-chip installed in new television sets
be able to black out beer and other alcohol-related advertisements ("FCC asked
to block beer advertisements_, 1998). Horovitz & Wells (1997) report beer
commercial characters, such as the Budweiser frogs, are quite popular with
children. Other examples of public concern over alcohol advertising include
proposals in various states to ban "2 for 1" drink promotions at bars and
nightclubs (Seaton, 1996) and limitations on the use of outdoor billboards by
alcohol advertisers (Marshall, 1998).
Though not to the same extent as activists and some politicians, academics and
broadcast industry professionals also see alcohol advertisements as a
contentious issue. Hyman, Tansey and Clark (1994) note that more than a dozen
articles over a decade have appeared just in academic marketing journals
addressing various aspects of the ethics of alcohol advertising. In a series of
interviews with general managers of various Connecticut radio and television
stations, Haar (1996) confirmed that most stations do not air hard liquor ads.
The vice president of the NBC affiliate in Hartford said simply, "While I'm
here, we will not accept spirit advertising. It's that simple." The general
manager of a New Haven television station echoes the view that values drive the
advertising clearance decision. This manager said his company's refusal to air
hard liquor ads was not simply "an economic decision. It is a moral issue. It
does not matter what the other stations in our market are doing."
But what are values? Definitions abound. Rokeach (1973; Singhapakdi & Vitell,
1993) defined it as "an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or
end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or
converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence." Values can be defined as
one "status in a scale of preferences" or "something intrinsically desirable"
(Gove, 1981). Although many social science models study the link between
various definitions of values and different behaviors, little research has
looked at how the values of media professionals affect their decisions to
approve advertisements. What little research that has been done has never been
well integrated with how others have conceived values, partly due to
definitional problems. An attempt will be made to clarify these differing
conceptions of values.
Other factors, such as organizational structure and economic power, play a role
in the clearance process. This paper will address only the influence of personal
values in the station managers' decision-making process. This paper tests
several different conceptions of values that are theorized to explain
advertising behaviors, particularly how religion, professionalism, attitudes and
ethics influence this process. Standard demographic questions will also be used
to measure the influence of these variables and to control for spurious effects.
Many empirical studies have examined the relationship of values and
demographics. Age is probably the most studied variable. For example, Shamir,
Reed & Connell (1990) found that among 198 public relations professionals, the
best predictors of an individual's reported amount of professional ethics was
his or her personal ethics, age and experience. Davis (1994) surveyed 206
advertising professionals and found that older members of advertising agencies
were those most likely to weigh ethical factors when making media decisions.
Albanese & Van Fleet (1983, pp. 107-113) report that age had proven to be a
powerful factor in explaining value differences between younger workers and
older workers. Younger workers were found to be more concerned about money while
older workers had stronger work values and better attitudes. Even after
controlling for other variables, the relationship held true.
Gender has also been studied as having a role in the values process. Evidence
here is mixed as to effect. For example, (Haan, 1986) found men and women
approach ethical decision-making differently, though, in his study of
journalistic ethics, Voakes (1994, pp. 105-106) reports no clear differences
between male and female journalist's responses to workplace dilemmas.
What role does choice of postsecondary education play in values-related
decision-making? Although the causality is unclear in this case, some studies
find that business majors react differently to ethical situations than students
studying other fields. For example, Kennedy & Lawton's (1998) literature review
cites four different studies that report "business majors were more tolerant of
questionable business practices than were non-business majors." It appears no
one has explored how media managers of varying college major approach the
However, demographic influences on advertising clearance are not the main
issues at hand. Different conceptions of values are. While Wicks & Abernethy
(1997) claim "no study has specifically examined whether employees who consider
ethical beliefs important when clearing ads exhibit different advertising
clearances" than other employees, such work, using slightly different terms of
analysis, has been done by a group of marketing faculty and their students (Hunt
& Vitell, 1986; Singhapakdi & Vitell, 1990, 1993; Nwachukwu, 1993). In
particular, Nwachukwu's (1993) dissertation explores whether ethical differences
among marketing and advertising professionals are reflected in their approval or
disapproval of several proposed magazine advertisements. For example,
advertisements for products like tobacco or expensive tennis shoes were judged
more harshly if they targeted immature consumers or were judged by the marketer
to be harmful in and of themselves. Nwachukwu uses the model of Hunt & Vitell to
organize his theoretical work.
The Hunt & Vitell (1986) model argues that personal, cultural,
professional, industrial and organizational value factors influence ethical
decision-making. For example, the Hunt & Vitell model claims that the following
personal characteristics affect ethical decision-making: religion, value system,
belief system, strength of moral character, cognitive development and ethical
Unfortunately, the Hunt & Vitell model is large and complex. Most researchers
have only focused on a partial test of their model. From previous work with this
model, three important theoretical constructs show promise in predicting the
alcoholic beverage policy of a broadcast station. The first construct is that of
attitudinal values, which can be defined as the role that basic attitudes
towards life play in a person's everyday decision-making. The values tested here
are based in the work of Rokeach (1973) and Kahle (1983). The use of Kahle's
List of Values is warranted because research studies have found it reliable.
Among the other advantages of the List of Values over other measures are the
public domain nature of the instrument, the more contemporary wording of the
instrument than earlier instruments on values and the relatively quick entry of
data by respondents (Kahle, Beatty & Homer, 1986).
The list of values asks respondents to rank nine different values: sense of
accomplishment, excitement, fun and enjoyment in life, being well-respected,
self-fullfillment, security, sense of belonging, warm relations with others and
self-respect. Research led by Kahle has found predictive validity for these
measures. For example, self-fulfillment is a value generally found in college
graduates. People who experienced the Great Depression were more likely to
report security as an important value (Kahle, 1983, p. 95). Birth order was
found to affect the value preferences selected in the List of Values.
Those interested in the relationship between values and advertising
behavior have used the List of Values. Singhapakdi & Vitell (1993) tested the
List of Values on marketers and found that those who ranked high the values of
"having self-respect" or "being well-respected" had ethical responses to several
ethically challenging scenarios. However, Nwachukwu (1993) found these personal
values as having poor predictive power, with the possible exception of
individuals who were high in the construct "sense of accomplishment." These
individuals gave favorable ratings to advertisements for harmful products.
A second variable called religiosity has been developed by Wilkes, Burnett
& Howell (1986) and argued to play a role in the value-clearance relationship.
To this end, simply going to church does not capture how well integrated
religious values are in shaping everyday behavior. Research done by Wilkes,
Burnett and Howell has established a reliable multi-dimensional scale measuring
religiosity. In the field of values and advertising, Nwachukwu (1993, p. 285)
notes that "religious orientation has been shown to influence several aspects of
lifestyle," although his own study found only partial support for the measure.
Given the long history of religious involvement in the alcohol question,
religiosity will be examined to explain the influence of this variable on the
general manager and his decision-making. Surprisingly, a literature review
indicates that while questions of the strength of religious belief have been
asked, questions about the role of a particular denomination in shaping values
and advertising clearance responses have not been.
Finally, Sinhapadaki & Vitell (1993) and Nwachukwu (1993) have both tested
what they call professional norms and found individuals who strongly agreed with
these values to have more ethical and consumer-centered actions. The basic list
comes from nine items found in the code of ethics of the American Marketing
Association. They cover such constructs as the "honesty, fairness, rights and
duties" of marketers. Their scale was found to have high reliability and was
predictive of marketers' responses to a series of hypothetical scenarios.
Since both are concerned with the relationship between advertising and values,
the Hunt-Vitell model may be contrasted with the work of Wicks & Abernethy
(1997). Wicks & Abernethy's data on television personnel shows that employees
with high personal ethical standards enforce tougher advertising standards and
help protect the public. After data reduction, they imply a model of four items,
which they identify as "ethical belief statements." These items, like the work
of Day (1991), posit the general manager as influenced by responsibilities to
different stakeholders. Sometimes these responsibilities are at cross-purposes.
Specifically, Wicks & Abernethy (1993) test four items: belief in personal
ethics, concern for high profits, concern for negative response from other
advertisers and concern for negative responses from the station's audience. A
separate bivariate analysis of each item found each has an ability to
significantly explain important parts of the clearance process on television
stations in their sample.
This paper seeks to make two different contributions to the literature.
First, work in the field of how values influences the clearance process is still
at an early stage, but this paper will attempt to create a linkage between the
various authors in this literature. Each has demonstrated a predictive link
between personal values and some outcome of the advertising process. By
necessity, the different theoretical constructs of "values" discussed in various
works will be clarified and tested because the lack of linkage among these works
impedes progress in developing models that predict this complex behavior.
Second, since the hard liquor issue emerged into public debate in the summer of
1996, no one has explored how broadcast outlets are shaping their alcohol
policies. This study will shed light on how the placement attempts by various
alcohol advertisers have been received by broadcast licensees.
The study asked the following research questions:
RQ1. How accepting are stations of alcohol-related advertising?
RQ1A. Who shapes the advertising policy at a station?
RQ2. What role do demographic factors such as age, education, income and race
play in the clearance process?
RQ2A. Does the college major of the manager seem to influence this decision?
RQ3. What role do long-term attitudinal values play in the alcohol advertising
RQ4. What role do religious affiliation and commitment play in this process?
RQ5. Does a general manager's self-reported belief in professional values have a
relationship with his or her clearance polices?
RQ6. What role do ethics, concern for profits, other advertisers and the
audience play in this process?
RQ7. Of these various factors, which are interrelated with each other and which
factors best predict the clearance patterns of alcohol advertisements?
Radio stations were chosen as the unit of analysis for several reasons. First,
radio stations are currently determining their policy on this subject. In San
Francisco, gin commercials were accepted on at least five FM stations, although
at least four major stations refused them (Angwin, 1996). Marcus Perez, a
marketing manager for Bacardi rum, expresses his view that radio is a good
choice for his target audience of "twenty-something" drinkers because "you are
able to communicate more moods and feelings on radio than on a printed page"
(Berkowitz, 1997). Fleming (1997) writes that Seagram's, in just the second
half of 1996, spent $600,000 on national spot radio ads, about the same amount
it spent on TV ads, promoting its distilled spirits. Of course, beer companies
have historically been large advertisers on radio. Schulberg (1989, p. 8)
reports that in one sampled year, Anheuser-Busch was the top spot radio
advertiser, and two other beer companies ranked in the top 20. Acampora (1997)
found that alcohol companies were prominent sponsors of many major league
baseball radio broadcasts. Given this history, radio is an ideal place to test
the role of values in the alcohol advertising clearance process.
In November of 1997, an eight-page questionnaire was mailed to general managers
of 974 radio stations. These stations represent roughly ten percent of the
commercial radio stations licensed and operating in the United States. Many of
the questions used were derived from the previously discussed research.
Supplemental questions asked were inspired by information gathered from
interviews with several local general managers about their clearance policies
for alcohol-related products and press reports about the relaxation of the ban
on hard liquor advertisements. A draft questionnaire was pretested on a group of
undergraduates, of various academic disciplines, who were involved in running a
campus radio station.
Stations in the study were randomly selected from listings found in a
standard industry reference directory (Unmacht & McCrummen, 1996). In addition
to providing technical information about the station, this resource also
provided the address and name of each general manager. The survey was addressed
to the specific attention of the named general manager. If that person was
unavailable, an attempt was made to reach his or her successor. Each respondent
was assured confidentiality and told that only pooled responses would be made
public. 199 general managers returned the questionnaire, although seven of these
proved unusable. This 20% response rate was roughly in line with other reported
results from mail surveys involving personal values and executive-level
Each questionnaire was given a unique, visible code for the explicit purpose of
referencing technical data about the station. This code avoided the
time-consuming task of asking each respondent to enter data such as the
frequency of the station on the questionnaire, which would have lengthened the
questionnaire and lowered the response rate. The code allowed responders to be
compared with non-responders to the survey. For example, various technical,
programming and economic factors could be examined to ensure that all types of
station were properly represented in the study. Non-responders were found to be
no different from responders at the .05 significance level, except in two
categories. The only format that was significantly overrepresented in the study
was country music. Also, stations which had been sold during the past decade
were slightly less likely to respond to the study. Neither problem was
significant enough to warrant statistical correction of the sample. Minority
targeted formats and religious formats were not over- or under-represented in
In addition to being asked several questions about their alcohol policy,
the respondents were also asked to register their agreement or disagreement with
a series of statements using a scale where 1 was very strongly agree and 7 was
very strongly disagree. Standard demographic questions were also asked.
The dependent variable
Managers were asked whether their station would accept, or had accepted,
advertisements for seven different products or services related to alcohol. The
categories were bars & nightclubs, beer, fortified wine, hard liquor, malt
liquor, package stores and (ordinary) wine. Beer proved the least controversial
of these products while hard liquor was carried by the fewest number of
The dependent variable for this analysis was the number of types of
alcoholic beverages (or related businesses) the station would permit to
be advertised, using a scale of zero products allowed to all seven
permitted. The top of this index represents a willingness to advertise
products with a large alcoholic content such as hard liquors (like
rum), malt liquor (a strong version of beer) or a fortified wine (like
Thunderbird). On the other hand, those at the lowest end of the index
would not permit any alcoholic product or service to be advertised.
Number of Alcohol-Related Product Advertisements Accepted
Percentage of Respondents
Average Number of Products Accepted = 3.5, Standard Deviation = 2.5 (n
The respondents also provided evidence that they shaped the clearance
standards of their station. When asked which parties are influencers of the
station's alcohol advertising policy, 61% indicated that the decision was
influenced by the owners of the station while 58% indicated that the general
manager also had input. This last figure is somewhat confusing since 55% of the
general managers who responded indicated they also owned at least a part of
their radio station. The license holder (station owner) is ultimately
responsible for everything that is aired on a station, but it is clear that the
respondents also played a very significant role in determining day-to-day
station advertising policy. Despite earlier research from the field of
television which showed that informants from the sales department actively
shaped clearance standards (Wicks & Abernethy, 1997), no similar pattern was
found here. Radio sales managers had relatively low influence over advertising
clearance, at least in the eyes of the general managers in this survey.
Who influenced your station's alcoholic beverage policy (all that applied)?
(n = 192)
Demographic factors affect many human behaviors and clearance policies
proved no exception. To control for these variables and reduce the likelihood of
a spurious relationship, the effects of age, education, income, race and sex
were explored. Education was characterized as number of years of college-level
learning. Race had two components: whether the subject identified himself or
herself as Hispanic and whether the subject self-identified as non-white, that
is African-American, Asian-American or another classification. Of these
variables, only age proved to be a significant variable (p < .026). Older
station managers reported that they were less likely to approve alcoholic
Postsecondary education itself was not shown to affect alcohol clearance
patterns. Since prior research has shown that a person's college major explains
some of the variation found in various value-related responses, each respondent
was asked to identify his or her college major. Two large categories emerged:
those who claimed a business-related major (18% of sample) or those who claimed
a journalism, speech and/or mass communications undergraduate concentration (35%
of sample). Those respondents who identified themselves as
communications-related majors were not significantly different from the rest of
the sample. However, business majors were more likely to approve alcohol
beverage advertisements (p < .01).
In an analysis of all the demographic factors together, only age and business
major were found significant (both at p < .01).
List of Values
Based on the work of Rokeach (1973) and Kahle (1983), the List of Values
attempts to explain which long-term attitudinal values shape individual
behaviors and choices in life.
The preferred way to examine the List of Values is to analyze which values the
respondent listed as his or her most important or second most important.
However, the small sample size found here limited the usefulness of this
approach. Since each respondent was asked to code each value on a scale of 0 to
100 and the index of alcohol clearance was on a scale of 0 to 7, regression
analysis was used.
Respondents who identified themselves as high believers in "warm relations with
others" were more likely to work at stations which had strict alcohol
advertising policies. Individuals who value (score high) in warm relationships
find fulfillment in interpersonal relationships and tend to believe in their own
personal efficacy. Enjoying and valuing their social network, these people were
reported as having a high degree of satisfaction and a fair degree of success in
life (Kahle, 1983).
Overall the List of Values proved a poor predictor as evidenced by its
relatively low F statistic. This fact, together with the conflict that this
result has with the findings of Singhapakdi & Vitell (1993) and Nwachukwu
(1993), suggests little influence between attitudinal values and clearance
decisions. Nonetheless, given the significant relationship between valuing warm
relations and the alcohol index, the factor must be considered in the final
Given the different teachings and attitudes of various churches about and
towards alcohol consumption, we would expect that a respondent's religious
beliefs would play some role in his or her acceptance of alcohol ads. Two
questions were asked about religion. First, what role does religious
denomination play in the acceptance policy for alcohol ads? Secondly, how does
the self-reported degree of religiosity affect the clearance process?
Each respondent was asked "What religious denomination do you consider
yourself?" Only two religious denominations, Baptists and Catholics, were
mentioned by a sizeable number of respondents. While Baptists generally
approved fewer alcoholic beverage ads and Catholics were more willing to allow
these various products to be aired, neither relationship was significant.
Baptists made up 15% of the sample while Catholics numbered 18%. Too few
non-Christians responded for a separate analysis to be made.
Yet, simple questions about religious preference do not disclose the relative
strength of a person's religious values. To examine this, the religiosity index
In bivariate tests, the index of religiosity proved a good predictor of
alcohol policy. Those who scored as strongly agreeing with the items in this
index of religious sentiment tended to approve fewer alcohol advertisements (p <
How does the manager's agreement with professional norms affect the
acceptance of alcohol advertising? To test this question, an index of
professional values developed by Singhapakdi and Vitell (1993) was used.
Unfortunately, the Singhapakdi & Vitell index is based on nine assumptions found
in the ethical norms of marketers. Due to space limitations and the
inappropriateness of some of Singhapakdi & Vitell's questions to professionals
involved in broadcasting, the items were modified to fit the instant case. Five
modified items were then tested.
Professional values were found to be highly significant in predicting the
alcohol clearance index (p <.0005) although some caution should be used in
interpreting the finding due to the relatively low reliability statistic
computed from the index.
Ethical Belief Items
In their study of the ethical factors influencing television advertisement
clearance, Wicks & Abernethy (1997) evaluated four statements to predict how
television stations cleared advertisements of dubious value. The following items
were modified to fit this study of radio alcohol policies.
Ethical Belief Items (modified from Wicks & Abernethy, 1997)
I refuse to air some alcohol advertisements because such ads violate my personal
I refuse to air some alcoholic beverage advertisements because they might
receive a negative reaction from my station's audience.
I refuse to air some alcoholic beverage advertisements because they might
receive a negative reaction from my station's other advertisers.
My job is to earn the highest possible profits for my station.
Individually, personal ethics proved to be the best predictor (p < .0005). The
items related to audience and other advertisers were also excellent predictors
but there were very high levels of correlation among the first three items.
Factor analysis and reliability calculations indicated that a single construct
was driving each of these individual items. For further analysis, they were
combined into an index simply called personal ethics. This index generated an
alpha of .82.
Concern for high profits was negatively associated with the other three
variables. Individuals who believed their highest goal was to achieve high
profits cleared more alcohol-related commercials (p < .004). Both the index of
personal ethics created from the first three Wicks-Abernethy items and concern
for high profits will be carried forward to the final model.
An exploratory factor analysis was conducted on the seven significant
variables generated by the five explanatory models described above: age,
business major, warm relations with others, religiosity, belief in professional
values, concern with high profits and personal ethics.
Three significant components were identified. In the first component, which
explained nearly 25% of the variation, religiosity and personal ethics were the
main factors. In the second component (which accounted for 17.1% of the
variation), age was the primary factor, while the third component was almost
exclusively driven by concern for high profits. This third component explained
just over 14% of the model.
Regression of Individually Significant Items on the Alcohol Clearance Index
The results of a regression of these seven individually significant
variables upon the index of alcoholic beverage advertisements demonstrated four
significant variables at the .05 level. By far, the best explanatory variable
was the personal ethical response of the general manager. Those who identified
themselves as strong believers in personal ethics (including protecting the
audience) were associated with low levels of clearance for alcohol commercials.
Belief in professional values was also significant. Those who scored themselves
as strongly agreeing with professional values (that is entering low numbers on a
1 to 7 scale) were less likely to take alcoholic beverage advertisements.
Stations run by general managers who had studied business in college were
found to be significantly associated with stations carrying a high number of
alcoholic beverage advertisements.
Finally, age had predictive power even when controlling for other variables.
Older individuals were less likely to approve alcoholic beverage commercials.
Three variables were not significant in the final model. Religiosity was
not a good predictor at the .05 level of significance. The item from the List of
Values called "warm relations with others" was also not significant. Given the
poor results obtained from the List of Values items and the conflicting work of
others with it, further work with this instrument on the clearance question is
not recommended. Finally, the item measuring the statement that the station
manager's highest value was a concern for high profits was not significant at
the .05 level.
Significant results emerged from the station manager's self-described
belief in ethical and professional values. This study tentatively concludes that
a manager's personal belief in these values is driving the differences observed
in the clearance patterns of alcoholic beverages across broadcast stations.
Suggestions for Further Research
Nwachukwu (1993) studied how values predict the approval of print ads, of
the type generally found in magazines. Television clearance patterns have been
now been studied by Wicks & Abernethy (1997). This study explores radio
advertising. Perhaps the next avenue for a researcher is to move away from
specific questions grounded in a particular medium in order to analyze values
and clearance policies across the communications industry. For example, is there
a systematic difference between professionals in the print and the more
regulated broadcast media?
As discussed earlier in the paper, this review limited itself to questions
about personal values. Further research should move more broadly to examine
other variables theorized to affect the clearance process. For example, economic
factors have not been evaluated in this paper. It is likely that stations in
severe economic stress, such as a stand-alone AM station or a station burdened
with a large debt, would find it more difficult to reject advertisements. Has
the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which has led to a great escalation in
station prices and a larger concentration of ownership, also led to more
advertising of alcohol products and businesses?
Many questions remain about how values affect the clearance process. If
more common ground can be established about definitional issues, more complex
models can be developed to understand this issue. With fewer rules guiding the
clearance process, interest in how media professionals handle their freedom, and
whether they effectively self-regulate their advertising policies, will remain
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