Comparing Responses to Public Health and Industry-Funded Alcohol Harm Reduction Advertisements: An Experimental Study
Conduct a head-to-head experimental test of responses to alcohol harm reduction advertisements developed by alcohol industry Social Aspects/Public Relations Organizations (SAPROs) versus those developed by public health (PH) agencies. The researchers hypothesized that, on average, SAPRO advertisements would be less effective at generating motivation (H1) and intentions to reduce alcohol consumption (H2) but more effective at generating positive perceptions of people who consume alcohol (H3).
Online experiment with random assignment to condition.
2923 Australian adult weekly alcohol users (49% high-risk alcohol users) recruited from an opt-in online panel.
Participants viewed 3 of 83 advertisements developed by PH agencies (n=2174) or 3 of 28 advertisements developed by SAPROs (n=749).
Primary outcome measures
Participants reported their motivation to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed; behave responsibly and/or not get intoxicated; and limit their alcohol use around/never supply to minors, as well as intentions to avoid consuming alcohol completely; reduce the number of alcohol use occasions; and reduce the amount of alcohol consumed per occasion. Participants also reported their perceptions of people who consume alcohol on six success-related items and four fun-related items.
Compared with alcohol users exposed to PH advertisements, those exposed to SAPRO advertisements reported lower motivation to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed (β=−0.091, 95% CI −0.171 to −0.010), and lower odds of intending to avoid alcohol completely (OR=0.77, 0.63 to 0.94) and to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed per occasion (OR=0.82, 0.69 to 0.97). SAPRO advertisements generated more favorable fun-related perceptions of alcohol users (β=0.095, 0.013 to 0.177).
The alcohol harm reduction advertisements produced by alcohol industry SAPROs that were tested in this study were not as effective at generating motivation and intentions to reduce alcohol consumption as those developed by PH organizations. These findings raise questions as to whether SAPROs should play a role in alcohol harm reduction efforts.
In this study, according to respondents, alcohol industry funded messaging on alcohol harm reduction reported low levels of motivation to reduce alcohol consumption and painted alcohol use in a favorable light.
The pattern of findings in the study suggests that industry-funded campaigns are more likely to present alcohol and [alcohol use] in a favorable light, rather than highlighting the negative consequences of alcohol consumption,” said Dr Emily Brennan, author of the study, from Cancer Council Victoria, as per their website.Dr. Emily Brennan, author of the study, Cancer Council Victoria
The study adds to the mounting evidence suggesting that it is best not to let the alcohol industry be involved in the development and delivery of alcohol-related information and education.
More alcohol consumed means more profit for the alcohol industry and more harm. It is a direct conflict of interest for an industry whose profit margin is driven by alcohol consumption to contribute to campaigns purportedly aimed at reducing the harm caused by alcohol,” said Ms. Sarah Jackson, Senior Alcohol Policy Adviser, at Cancer Council Victoria, as per their website.Sarah Jackson, Senior Alcohol Policy Adviser, Cancer Council Victoria
This fact it further established when examining how the alcohol industry exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to drive up consumption, despite alcohol use increasing risk of infection and other alcohol-related harms.
Big alcohol companies have been heavily promoting rapid alcohol home delivery and daily alcohol use at home during the COVID-19 pandemic to help people cope. This is despite alcohol use making people more vulnerable to COVID-19, exacerbating social isolation, and potentially fueling violence in people’s homes,” said Mr. Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria, as per their website.Todd Harper, CEO, Cancer Council Victoria
The study results strengthen that public health groups are the best equipped with the right motivations to develop campaigns to reduce alcohol harm in the public interest.
Reducing the harm caused by alcohol is a public health priority and there is a need for effective public education that will make people aware of the harm caused by alcohol and motivate them to change their behavior. This study underlines that it’s public health groups that are best placed to successfully develop and deliver these critical messages,” said Mr. Harper, as per their website.Todd Harper, CEO, Cancer Council Victoria