Drink, Drunk, Drugged

Many people in our society don’t recognise alcohol as a drug, but it is actually one of the most commonly used and abused drugs throughout the world. Even though drinking alcohol is legal after a certain age it does not mean that constant drinking is safe or healthy. It is important that people recognize the dangers of alcohol abuse.

We’ve all seen alcohol risk marketing on television and heard it on the radio. How many slogans can you remember?

The first one that comes to my mind is “Rethink Drink”. It was targeted at young adults and up to early 30s year olds. And this is the one thing that always interested me.

In my opinion, these marketing campaigns are generally targeted at young people. Examples like Drink-Drink-Drunk and projects through the Tertiary Alcohol Project (TAP) are targeted at university students.

It appears there is a limited effort placed on existing drinkers. This is in direct opposition to efforts placed on existing smokers or drug-users. Even Healthway state that one of their key aims in regards to alcohol is “Helping young people avoid high-risk alcohol consumption”, as opposed to any other market.

It is hardly fair to assume that without targeting a market, or make that market care, that we can make a change. When someone is young, it is true that their future actions are being cemented – but maybe there are other things influencing their decision-making.

I wonder whether the social perception of alcohol consumption is what’s holding back the effectiveness of alcohol marketing and the reason that the marketing is targeted in the manner it is. Alcohol is accepted across our society almost universally, in religion, sports, the performing arts and so on. We all accept that people we know are highly likely to have had alcohol at some point in their lives.

“Alcohol is the anaesthesia by which we endure the operation of life” – George Bernard Shaw

Marketing for alcohol safety is going to continue to be difficult whilst society still maintatins the optimistic view of alcohol that it does.

Do you find that society’s perceptions of alcohol effects whether you drink or not in a given circumstance?

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More information – http://www.dao.health.wa.gov.au/

Article: Meier, P. 2011. Alcohol marketing research: the need for a new agenda. Addiction, 106, 466-471

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6 comments so far

  1. ashfonty on

    The alcohol campaign video that you posted was a very effective one! It really makes me cringe to think that this has happened to people.

    Society’s perceptions of alcohol definitely influence whether or not I would drink in a certain situation. I once heard that when you are on a business lunch/meeting you should never order alcohol – you are there for business not a good time! So that is one situation that I would avoid alcohol.

    However I am certainly one to enjoy a ‘social’ drink here and there. I don’t often go overboard into the ‘binge drink’ category but I do enjoy a wine with dinner/friends.

    I don’t really mind that young people are being targetted in the majority of these adverts. As a young person myself I can honestly say I don’t know a single person that I am aware of that consciously doesn’t drink alcohol. I think our age group needs to be targetted so that we learn about the dangers of alcohol early. We would be one of the first generartions to really be targetted for this sort of thing because as you said, it is such an accepted part of society!

    Maybe things will be a little different when we grow up. Our kids may receive a different message/attitude towards alcohol from us. I can say that there is already a big difference between the amount of alcohol I consume now compared to what I did when I was 18 – although this probably has more to do with my ability to handle a hangover than anything else!

    Loved the post! Very intersting ideas.

    • osullivankate on

      I think the observation that our kids may receive a different message towards alcohol from us is really good. I can say that I am personally concerned that we won’t actually pass on a different message because we all (if you look at it) drink the same way our parents do. We drink with dinner, we drink with mates on a weekend – never to excess but still, we drink.

      I wonder whether targeting markets that aren’t being touched at the moment would actually modify the social acceptability of alcohol.

  2. selinamj on

    Love this post. The topic is so interesting.

    The way I see it there really are two key things with alcohol marketing, both for advertising and public health campaigns, and they are the target audience and framing.

    You highlighted the fact that health messages related to alcohol are by and large targeted at young people and I completely agree with this. It is even part of the federal government’s strategic plan to reduce the acceptance of binge drinking culture in young people. I also think that there is a large focus on young people because the marketing of alcohol products is also focused on young people like the article pointed out. It is obvious that there is an attempt to counteract these messages. Like you said I am sure it is also an attempt to curb bad alcohol related habits at a young age.

    I think something else we can agree on is that the marketing of alcohol risk messages isn’t working. I think this has a lot to do with the framing of the message. If we take your ad example it is clearly negatively focused and is trying to use the shock factor to get our attention. The sounds are harsh and the colours are quite bleak. Then contrast them to the recent Strongbow (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CKd85iBLpQY) or Corona (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yks7FTUO9WQ&feature=relmf) ads which are bright, happy, include good music and represent fun and relaxation with friends. Why would you listen to the dark and depressing message when you have a warm fuzzy alternative?

    I also agree with Ash on the fact that drinking is strongly related to public perceptions. Even with all of these negative messages being fed at us I know that we still go out and drink at unhealthy levels way too often.

    • rhiandyer on

      “I think this has a lot to do with the framing of the message”

      Yep, giving doomsday scenarios to the age group that see themselves as indestructible is a waste of time.

  3. keikok on

    Great post and video! I think the video is very effective to the target audience/young people.

    This topic is really interesting to me as one of Japanese.
    Since Japan has the culture that younger people respect older people, it sometimes is pretty hard to say “No” to older people.
    This culture also reflects to an alcohol situation. When we go for a drink to pub: say there are more than 10 people who are older than you), you often take a bottle of beer and your glass to older people especially your boss to show your respect and pour it to their glass saying “Thank you for taking care of me”. In return, they pour the beer back to your glass. When they pour the beer back to you, you need to drink up the beer in your glass unless they say “It is all right”. So, the time you leave the pub, you often have to drink more than 10 glasses of beer.
    This culture has been changing and many people started to say “Sorry but no” but sometimes, we still cannot say “No” to older people when they say “Drink”. Of course, this is one of the ways to show the friendship between older and younger people in our cultures. However, it is also true that many people call ambulance during nights for acute alcohol poisoning.

    When we create advertisement, we always have to think about target audience. In Japan, maybe we should target older people not to force younger people to drink…

  4. rhiandyer on

    Its true that alcohol is the basis of social life in Australia but I don’t think the older generations foster the culture of binge-drinking, that really is in the realm of the youth. I would expect that is why they are targeted so heavily. I think enjoying a glass of wine here and there is actually setting a good normative example. If we weren’t surrounded by people enjoying moderate alcohol consumption then drinking would always be about binging, which would set a very different normative example.

    I would have to disagree with other commenters about the effectiveness of that video. In that video there seemed to be about 50 people having a good time and two people involved in the incident on a single night of drinking. To me the advertisement is saying “on rare occasions drinking might increase the chances of something that is already far-fetched occurring, if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time”. If the audience (the target for this add was a bit older than teenagers) has possibly had a good decade of drinking without to much incident I think they would just disregard it in the same way they disregard car accidents.

    If the first fatal car accident on the news (which is real and even more effective than an add) stopped everyone from driving their cars we would know that this type of strategy works. It doesn’t – even though we probably see them on a weekly basis now.

    The real problem in this article seems to be the unconscious decisions that are being directed by marketing. Government marketing is trying to change your conscious decision-making so they are addressing the wrong (and least effective) area. This is particularly pertinent for trying to counteract binge drinking because by its nature alcohol reduces inhibition so a few drinks literally washes away anti-binge drinking messages.


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