'Responsible drinking' campaigns emerged in the early 1970s as a means of addressing hazardous drinking and its related consequences. While these were initially the product of public health agencies and health-related NGOs, they are increasingly being developed and disseminated by the alcohol industry. There is considerable debate as to whether industry-generated campaigns are designed to reduce hazardous drinking and related problems (as argued by their developers) or are designed to avoid government regulation or even to increase sales. The aim of the present study was to explore the way that recent industry-developed responsible drinking campaigns are perceived and interpreted by the general public. That is, do they promote low-risk drinking, promote risky drinking, or just muddy the waters. Two sub-studies were conducted. The first, a mall intercept study with 180 adults in two Australian shopping districts, explored participants' understanding of slogans/taglines. The second, an online survey with 480 Australian adults, explored understandings and interpretations of television/online commercials. The results of the two studies revealed diversity in participants' interpretation of the 'responsible drinking' advertisements. Terminology utilised in industry-developed advertisements was found to be ambiguous; for example, what age group was being referred to in the tagline 'Kids and alcohol don't mix', and whether 'Drink Properly' meant not drinking to excess or drinking in a way that made you look more sophisticated. In Study Two, the government-developed campaign ('Know when to say when') was clearly interpreted as warning against risky consumption of alcohol; whereas the industry-developed campaigns ('How to drink properly', 'Kids absorb your drinking', 'Friends are waiting') were interpreted to have a range of different meanings, including some seemingly unrelated to alcohol. These findings are consistent with the literature evaluating anti-smoking campaigns developed by the tobacco industry, and previous research showing that industry communications serve to soften public opinion and create the impression of a 'socially responsible' industry but are likely to be less effective than initiatives focused on the availability and promotion of alcohol
27 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

PURPOSE: The purpose of the present study is to describe the portrayal of alcohol content in popular YouTube music videos.

METHOD: We used inductive thematic analysis to explore the lyrics and visual imagery in 49 UK Top 40 songs and music videos previously found to contain alcohol content and watched by many British adolescents aged between 11 and 18 years and to examine if branded content contravened alcohol industry advertising codes of practice.

RESULTS: The analysis generated three themes. First, alcohol content was associated with sexualised imagery or lyrics and the objectification of women. Second, alcohol was associated with image, lifestyle and sociability. Finally, some videos showed alcohol overtly encouraging excessive drinking and drunkenness, including those containing branding, with no negative consequences to the drinker.

CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that YouTube music videos promote positive associations with alcohol use. Further, several alcohol companies adopt marketing strategies in the video medium that are entirely inconsistent with their own or others agreed advertising codes of practice. We conclude that, as a harm reduction measure, policies should change to prevent adolescent exposure to the positive promotion of alcohol and alcohol branding in music videos.

27 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Many countries use warnings in an attempt to regulate alcohol consumption. However, there is a lack of conclusive evidence in the research on alcohol warnings to support decision-making on effective health policies. This study explores the effectiveness of two mandatory warnings introduced in France in 1991 and 2007: the first ("Alcohol abuse is harmful") is displayed on advertisements; the second (a pictogram) on bottles. Given that advertising content regulations have been implemented in some countries to reduce the attractiveness of alcohol marketing (e.g., the Evin law in France), this research also aims to explore whether such regulations can improve the effectiveness of warnings.

METHOD: In-depth interviews were conducted with 26 French people aged 15-29. The effectiveness of health warnings was assessed in terms of recall, noticeability, credibility, comprehension, responsiveness and ability to encourage moderate drinking and abstinence during pregnancy. Participants were shown advertisements and bottles that either followed or challenged content regulations. The data was analysed using double manual coding and NVivo software.

RESULTS: While both warnings suffered from a lack of visibility and noticeability due to their size, location, outdatedness and because of competition from marketing design elements, the warning on the advertisement that followed content regulations was most visible. Both warnings were considered to be informationally vague, lacking in credibility and ineffective in terms of making participants feel concerned and influencing consumption habits.

CONCLUSION: Current French warnings are ineffective and require modification. Improvements are suggested regarding the design and content of warnings to help increase their effectiveness.

01 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

The alcohol industry have attempted to position themselves as collaborators in alcohol policy making as a way of influencing policies away from a focus on the drivers of the harmful use of alcohol (marketing, over availability and affordability). Their framings of alcohol consumption and harms allow them to argue for ineffective measures, largely targeting heavier consumers, and against population wide measures as the latter will affect moderate drinkers. The goal of their public relations organisations is to 'promote responsible drinking'. However, analysis of data collected in the International Alcohol Control study and used to estimate how much heavier drinking occasions contribute to the alcohol market in five different countries shows the alcohol industry's reliance on the harmful use of alcohol. In higher income countries heavier drinking occasions make up approximately 50% of sales and in middle income countries it is closer to two-thirds. It is this reliance on the harmful use of alcohol which underpins the conflicting interests between the transnational alcohol corporations and public health and which militates against their involvement in the alcohol policy arena.

[Caswell S, Callinan S, Chaiyasong S, Cuong PV, Kazantseva E, Bayandorj T, Huckle T, Parker K, Railton R, Wall M. How the alcohol industry relies on harmful use of alcohol and works to protect its profits. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;35:661-664]

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