Date of Completion


Embargo Period



alcohol, marketing, advertising, social media, Facebook, regulation, user engagement, drinking intentions, appeal, user-generated content

Major Advisor

Thomas Babor

Associate Advisor

David Gregorio

Associate Advisor

James Grady

Field of Study

Public Health


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Background: Alcohol advertising has recently expanded onto social networking sites (SNSs), which allows users to interact with alcohol ads through user engagement features (e.g. Likes or Shares) and user-generated comments. Few studies have evaluated alcohol advertising on SNSs or investigated how ad interactivity may influence ad perceptions. Two inter-related studies were conducted to answer these questions. Methods: In Study 1, alcohol advertising posted on Facebook by Budweiser and Bud Light were evaluated for compliance with a self-regulated alcohol advertising code and for thematic content. User-generated comments written in response to these ads were also evaluated. The results of this study were used to inform Study 2, a 2(within) x 2(between) x 2(between) factorial randomized trial. Participants (n=120) viewed four pre-selected Facebook ads, of which two were compliant and two were non-compliant with a self-regulated alcohol advertising code. Participants also viewed real-world high or low user engagement values and real-world pro- or anti-drinking user-generated comments. Ad appeal, drinking intentions, and individual user engagement were measured after viewing each ad. The results were analyzed using hierarchical linear models. Results: In Study 1, 82% of the ads contained 1 or more violations of a self-regulated alcohol advertising code, and 78% of the ads contained one or more content areas previously associated with code violations. Forty-seven percent of the user-generated comments were positive towards the product or drinking. In Study 2, ads non-compliant with a self-regulated alcohol advertising code scored higher on emotional appeal (p=0.004) while compliant ads scored higher on informational (p<0.001) and source appeal (p=0.034). Pro-drinking user-generated comments significantly increased drinking intentions and individual user engagement. Discussion: Self-regulation has failed to prevent potentially harmful content from appearing in Budweiser and Bud Light advertising posted on Facebook. Non-compliance with existing self-regulated alcohol advertising codes was associated with increased emotional appeal, which may result in the ads being remembered more often and recalled more swiftly. Pro-drinking user-generated comments were associated with increased drinking intentions and increased individual user engagement, both of which are associated with increased alcohol consumption. New regulations may be needed to limit alcohol ad content and the influence of user-generated comments.