Young people are consuming less alcohol and choosing an alcohol-free lifestyle more. So why is Big Alcohol shifting the focus on “hangovers”?
This blog post dissects a new campaign of multinational alcohol giant Diageo together with MTV International supposedly about promoting “responsible” alcohol use and avoiding “hangovers”.
But the campaign actually contains a number of elements and tactics that undermine prevention and understanding of the real effects of alcohol…

Big Alcohol Wants Youth To Avoid Hangover

A New Strategy Of Pushing Alcohol Culture On Youth

Recently, multinational alcohol giant Diageo partnered with MTV International for a campaign. The campaign is supposedly promoting “responsible” consumption of alcohol among youth.

The target group of this campaign is 18 to 24 year olds. This is a demographic already identified by scientific evidence as well as Diageo itself as an age group that is consuming less alcohol than previous generations.

Trend: Millennials Are Going Alcohol-Free

If youth are consuming less alcohol, why is a campaign encouraging “responsible” alcohol consumption needed?

Sounds like a strategy to promote alcohol use among youth who are turning to more alcohol-free and healthy lifestyles.

The campaign features a series of videos. They have big goals for reaching youth with these videos. Specifically, over 12 million people on social media, plus 52 million TV households across the UK, Spain, Denmark and Germany.

Science has already found how potent social media marketing is in reaching youth and affecting their behaviour. This is an avenue Big Alcohol already exploits to promote their products to youth.

Youth See More Alcohol Ads Online Than Adults

The campaign videos and the alcohol norm

The videos were produced in collaboration with creative team Just So, hiring presenters Becca Dudley, Harriet Rose and Samuel Eni to discuss hangover-induced anxiety and promote the “benefits” of “moderate” alcohol use, emphasising opportunities to “seize the day”.

The campaign, will run on MTV’s website, YouTube and social media channels as well as being promoted on the brand’s localised TV channels.

The first video of the campaign aired on June 3rd and the series is titled “weekend not wasted”.

The video featuring Becca Dudley, Harriet Rose and Samuel Eni, starts with them having drinks (which looks like alcohol) at a bar and discussing bad hangovers. Then because there is an activity planned for next day, it shows them going home after a single glass. The next day features them trying acrobalance. In several instances the group mentions how difficult it would be to have done the activity if they had a hangover.

The video discusses no health harms of alcohol consumption or anything else related to reducing alcohol use among youth. It simply has people having fun the day after limiting their alcohol intake to one glass.

The video promotes the pervasive alcohol norm by connecting alcohol to youth socializing. It basically shows the message, have a little bit of alcohol and have fun, which in itself is contradictory as the chemical in alcohol is a depressant. Furthermore, science clearly shows any amount of alcohol is bad for health and specially increases risk of cancer and stroke.

Alcohol Use, Burden, Policy: Systematic Analysis For Global Burden Of Disease Study 2016

More than just a video

A link to DrinkIQ, a website by Diageo to promote “responsible” alcohol use is provided in the description of the video with the tagline “planning a weekend not wasted doesn’t need to be a challenge. Get some tips on having a great night out and avoiding hangovers”.

DrinkIQ by all appearance glamourizes the use of alcohol by using attractive images and showing groups of youth using alcohol and having fun. The website like the video again promotes the alcohol norm by connecting it to socializing and having a good time.

The website contains various pages, some of which feature questionable information such as “nutritional value of alcohol”. Alcohol is known to be harmful to health and in many countries alcohol marketing regulations ban implying alcohol as healthy.

The website even features an interactive e-learning course on alcohol. The entire page is designed to shift responsibility of alcohol use and its harm on the individual. Quite like how many alcohol industry funded Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes try to do. Advocating for personal responsibility is a strategy often used by alcohol industry lobbyists against calls for strong policy action such as through the alcohol policy best buys of increasing alcohol taxes, regulating the availability and restricting marketing of alcohol, recommended by the World Health Organization.

Is the alcohol industry actually invested in reducing alcohol harm?

If the alcohol industry was genuinely interested in public health they would take more concrete measures. For example, displaying guidelines on alcohol product labels. As daily mail reports in the UK only 14 out of 100 alcoholic products carry guidelines on risk on packaging. It has been 3 years since the guidelines were released. The alcohol industry is self-regulated in the UK and this fact shows they have no interest in “moderation” or public health.

While Big Alcohol likes to show they are interested in public health, their actions don’t follow this image. On one side, the alcohol industry funds CSR projects and lobby groups that push the individual responsibility aspect for alcohol and completely disregards risks, health harms and policy measures to control consumption.

Then there are lobby front groups of the alcohol industry and trade associations which create an avalanche of lobbying, in turn negatively affecting actual policy measures which can reduce the public health as well as social and economic harm from alcohol.

The problem is not individual responsibility in itself, the problem is that Big Alcohol selectively uses this idea to undermine evidence based policy measure which are found to be effective in reducing alcohol harm. The industry propagates an alcohol culture, while advocating for “free choice” and yet push people, specially youth, to use alcohol to fit into society.

This new campaign by Diageo and MTV is just another part of the tactic to promote the alcohol norm among youth who are moving to healthier lifestyles.


The Drink Business website:

DrinkIQ website:

Daily Mail article: