Australia: Alcohol Marketing Self-Regulation Fails to Protect Youth
A new trend revealed that many ads are using humor to market alcohol to women and other vulnerable groups. ‘Get them laughing to get them drinking [alcohol]’ seems to be the motto of the alcohol industry according to an analysis of alcohol ads displayed across a range of media types in Australia. New scientific studies show that alcohol marketing self-regulation by the alcohol industry fails to protect Australian minors from alcohol promotions.
Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health reviewed of over 600 alcohol ads that were the subject of complaints and found that humour was the most commonly used technique to promote alcohol.
The review aimed to identify patterns in the use of particular themes in alcohol advertising across different types of media. Other findings are:
- Over half of the ads featured themes that are known to appeal to young people or encourage high-risk alcohol use – these themes included humour, value for money, sports, and friendship.
- Overall, humour was the most common theme (present in 18% of ads), followed by value for money (14%), sports (14%), and bulk purchases (10%).
- Humour often co-occurred with other themes, including sexual attraction, mateship, manliness, and partying.
We found TV ads were most likely to contain multiple themes, potentially because video gives marketers more time to be creative. This means we not only need strong regulations of alcohol advertising on TV, but we need controls on other platforms that use video, like social media,” explained Lead author Professor Simone Pettigrew, Head of Food Policy at The George Institute for Global Health.
The latest findings clearly illustrate the failure of alcohol industry self-regulation in the field of alcohol marketing. The self-regulatory alcohol advertising codes in Australia were meant to ensure that alcohol promotion meets community standards, especially in relation to minimising the exposure of children and young people. But the latest review of Big Alcohol marketing tactics to push their products exposes the regulatory loopholes in advertising content and placement. The alcohol industry obviously exploits these loopholes and the overall lack of government regulations to appeal to and attract a younger audience.
Use of humor is concerning as kids are attracted by humor.
Major reasons why alcohol marketing is reported in Australia include the marketing being too near to a school or visible in places/transport that a frequented by children. Another major reason is using sex appeal to market alcohol.
Australia’s alcohol marketing is self-regulated by the alcohol industry and hence many of these violations of the industry’s own code of conduct go unnoticed. Further, unethical marketing such as objectifying women and using sex appeal to market alcohol is allowed to continue. It has been proven alcohol industry self-regulation is a failure and yet the Australian government has not taken policy action to independently regulate alcohol marketing in the country.
An additional analysis of alcohol advertising titled “Alcohol advertisement characteristics that increase the likelihood of code breaches” shows that those promoting alcohol via sponsorships were most likely to breach voluntary regulatory code provisions that attempt to protect youth (26%), followed by ads shown online (18%) and via traditional media such as television and radio (18%).
There are almost no rules restricting where alcohol ads can be placed outdoors, and the controls on digital alcohol marketing are very weak. It seems Australian kids are being surrounded by alcohol promotions, whether they’re playing outside or online,” said study co-author Julia Stafford, Alcohol Program Manager at Cancer Council WA.
The scientific evaluation concluded that more effective restrictions are required to address current alcohol advertising practices, with a particular focus on the placement of ads including through sponsorship and online, as well as the use of themes that are particularly attractive to young people.
Regulation of alcohol advertising in Australia needs to be encompassed within a mandatory advertising code that is appropriately enforced. This means regulations developed and implemented independent of the alcohol and advertising industries,” said Prof Pettigrew, as per The George Institute for Global Health.
Sport has started returning to our TV screens, meaning Australian kids are once again being exposed to endless promotions for alcohol. Now more than ever, governments need to act on the calls to end alcohol advertising in sport.”