Australia: Big Alcohol Marketing Onslaught Exposed
New research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the Cancer Council WA has exposed the Big Alcohol marketing onslaught in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new report provides a snapshot of the quantity of alcohol marketing on social media, and how alcohol brands and liquor retailers are marketing their products during the pandemic. Encouraging alcohol use in times of heightened stress and anxiety is a serious public health concern, particularly when alcohol is being promoted as a coping mechanism. The new report details how the alcohol industry is using the pandemic as a marketing opportunity.
The alcohol promotions during this COVID-19 crisis are particularly concerning as they promote known risk factors for alcohol harm: buying more alcohol, consuming alcohol to cope, using alcohol daily, consuming alcohol at home and using alcohol alone.
— FARE (@FAREAustralia) May 13, 2020
As Movendi International previously reported, Big Alcohol has been exploiting the current global public health crisis to their advantage to peddle alcohol to Australians from the beginning of lockdown laws in the country.
This advertising is happening in Australia despite the World Health Organization calling to restrict alcohol availability during the pandemic for several reasons, such as:
- Alcohol weakens the immune system making people more susceptible to the virus,
- Alcohol causes physical and mental health harm,
- Driving under the influence of alcohol leads to road accidents, injury and death,
- Alcohol is linked with violence, and
- All of the above increases avoidable burden on the healthcare system and emergency services, which are already over-burdened by the pandemic.
Now the new research by FARE and Cancer Council WA illustrates the extent to which this unethical and harmful trend has permeated society through social media. The research monitored an individual’s Facebook and Instagram feeds for one hour on a Friday night.
Key results from the research include:
- In one hour on a Friday night, 107 sponsored alcohol advertisements were displayed on a personal Facebook and Instagram account.
- This equates to approximately one alcohol advertisement every 35 seconds.
- Six marketing message categories were identified: get easy access to alcohol without leaving your home (58%), save money (55%), buy more (35%), consume alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic (24%), use alcohol to cope, ‘survive’, or feel better (16%), and choose ‘healthier’alcohol products (14%).
- Nearly three-quarters of advertisements (71%) explicitly or implicitly referenced the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Two-thirds (66%) of the alcohol advertisements had a ‘Shop now’ or ‘Get offer’ button linking directly to an online store.
The marketing messages being used to promote alcohol during COVID-19 are particularly concerning as they promote heavy alcohol consumption, including buying more, consuming to cope, consuming daily and at home or alone in the home.
I am genuinely fatigued and heartbroken by the constant social media posts glorifying coping with [isolation] by getting [intoxicated] because I know the crushing weight it’s adding to our most vulnerable; like those in early recovery, or shaky sobriety, or those who don’t even yet know they’re becoming dependent [on alcohol],” said Shanna Whan, founder of Sober in the Country, as per The New Daily.
This marketing correlates with an increase in alcohol sales in the country during the COVID-19 lockdown. A representative YouGov poll of more than 1000 Australian adults has found 70% Australians are buying more alcohol during the lockdown.
Encouraging alcohol use in times of stress & anxiety is a #publichealth concern, particularly when #alcohol is being promoted as a coping mechanism.
New report on the #alcohol industry using the pandemic as a marketing opportunity. #COVID19Aus
➡️REPORT: https://t.co/RM5dwpdFwR pic.twitter.com/iqzMEl0Z3a
— FARE (@FAREAustralia) May 14, 2020
In Australia, alcohol advertising is self-regulated. It has been proven time and again that self regulation has failed to regulate and eliminate unethical and harmful alcohol promotion practices. The above research further strengthens the need for an independent government regulatory body for alcohol advertising in Australia.
According to a Swinburne University study, Australians have been experiencing stress, anxiety or depression up to five times as much as they would outside of lockdown. Alcohol is a known depressant and increases anxiety. As FARE says, these effects with the lockdown situation can seriously endanger the mental health of Australians.
This study shows that alcohol companies are taking advantage of people’s fear and anxiety by urging us to drink alcohol to cope with isolation,” said Caterina Giorgi, CEO of FARE, as per The New Daily.