Bingeing Begets Bingeing in Failed College Ads
Public Service announcements featuring beer and shot of shame end up backfiring, according to Nidhi Agrawal, lead researcher and associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University.
Students who view them binge, live through the predicted humiliation; then many students go right back to drinking again.
Sounds crazy, but Dr. Agrawal, who has spent much of her professional career analyzing consumer psychology, thinks she understands.
"On some level, the students believe 'If I make a mistake, I can fix it.' Unfortunately, that's not always how it works," she said.
When it comes to binge drinking, a curious rite of entree´ for college-age young adults, rapid-fire drinking is not a mistake they can fix easily. Friendships can be lost forever; huge debts might be incurred in a single night; even parental relationships can be severed after a binge.
But it gets worse than unwanted pregnancies, and alcohol poisoning, and mysterious injuries not covered by student health care. Bingeing, as any substance-abuse counselor adhere to, is a sign of alcoholism. Of course, bingeing won't effect every single student (maybe only as a sign of things to come for others) but it's an ugly sentinel standing over the so-called jolly proceedings of a beer-chugging contest. Some students will get a free pass, but who's to know?
Dr. Agrawal points to shame as the predominant emotion in the anti-bingeing PSAs, and says that is to blame for students' negative reactions to the advertisements. Not only does shame make people defensive, but it is the exact wrong tactic to use on a budding alcoholic (because it only draws the person further down the spiral of denial). It is "linked to a chronic tendency to withdrawal that is (evident) in all addictive behaviors," Dr. Agrawal said. It's also linked to chronic depression.Continued on the next page