Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have a determinant role to play in preventing alcohol initiation and reducing alcohol related harm, especially in vulnerable groups such as women and youth. A new tool has been published to help NGOs monitor alcohol marketing. 

NGOs can call for and help governments in adjusting their policies to improve the health of their populations through their active participation in public health activities. Reducing the population’s exposure to alcohol marketing can improve health and welfare. The tool published by the Norwegian organisation Forut can be downloaded here: "Monitoring Alcohol Marketing MARK – a tool for NGOs"

Research by Petticrew and others (2017) shows that Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAPs), that involve partnerships between the alcohol industry and local government, do not provide convincing evidence that CAPs are effective in reducing alcohol harms or anti-social behaviour.  In their research "Community Alcohol Partnerships with the alcohol industry: what is their purpose and are they effective in reducing alcohol harms?", published in the Journal of Public Health, Petticrew and colleagues aimed to assess the evidence of effectiveness of CAPs. CAP websites, documents and databases were searched, and CAPs were contacted to identify evaluations and summarize their findings. Out of 88 CAPs, three CAP evaluations were found which used controlled designs or comparison areas, and further data on 10 other CAPs. The study concludes that despite industry claims, the few existing evaluations do not provide convincing evidence that CAPs are effective in reducing alcohol harms or ASB. Their main role may be as an alcohol industry corporate social responsibility measure which is intended to limit the reputational damage associated with alcohol-related ASB. David Jernigan added a link to a piece the AMA did years ago to try to warn about this. He writes "Our stance in the US is that it is sometimes possible to work with alcohol retailers, because in the US they are statutorily forbidden from having ties to the producers or wholesalers. However it is not possible because of deep conflicts of interest to work with producers or wholesalers." http://alcoholpolicymd.com/pdf/foe_final.pdf Tom Babor adds "In addition to David’s advice, there is a section in Chapter 10 of ANOC2 called “Community-level approaches.”  It describes the evidence in support of community mobilization, voluntary “accords” and other measures to reduce harm by means of collaboration among community groups, retail establishments, academics and government officials.  At the time of the review (2010) the evidence for these measures was mixed, and none of them involved the big producers.  Theoretically, they could be effective if the partners agreed to implement evidence-based practices of known effectiveness.  If the Community Alcohol Partnerships are not evidence-based, and if there is any suggestion that they are being used for CSR or brand marketing, they would seem to be counter-productive." The article (full text) can be downloaded via this link. The article has been included in our scientific publications database. 
In a recent study, Addiction Switzerland provides an overview of the challenges linked to online alcohol marketing. The main findings of the research are presented below. The study consists of four parts:
  1. (Non systematic) review of the literature on the impact and the strategies of online marketing for alcohol
  2. Monitoring of online alcohol marketing via selected websites and Facebook pages
  3. Overview of the legal regulation of online alcohol marketing in Switzerland and the self-regulation of the industry
  4. Online mystery-shopping
 
  1. The literature review highlights the use of internet as a new tool for alcohol marketing. Besides traditional websites, marketers rely on social media to reach a mainly young audience. Online marketing allows to interact with users who become ambassadors of the brands through liking, sharing and commenting posts from alcohol brands. One of the main issues is the user generated content, which is out of reach of any regulation or code. Research has shown that there is a correlation between the exposure to alcohol marketing and the onset of drinking and the amounts consumed. This correlation is even stronger when traditional marketing via newspapers, magazines etcetera is combined with online marketing.
  1. To generate an understanding of the marketing strategies for alcohol on the internet, monitoring of several brand websites and official Facebook pages over four months has been conducted. In general, the sites and pages respect the self-regulation codes, but the widespread use of lifestyle-advertisements suggests that these advertisements are also appealing to young people and even minors.
  1. There are several restrictions for alcohol marketing in Swiss law that also apply to online marketing, but the possibilities offered by the internet are difficult to regulate. The self-regulation codes only partially cover these gaps. One main point is the fact that user generated content is explicitly out of reach of these codes and the industry does not take responsibility for such content.
  1. A sample of online mystery shopping showed that it is very easy for minors to buy alcohol via the internet. In 11 of 12 cases minors could buy alcohol without having to prove their age. Therefore, Addiction Switzerland proposes to extend the "traditional" mystery shopping to online stores. Mystery shopping has proved to be an effective measure to sensitize outlets for respecting age limits.
  Link to the reports: Synthesis: Marthaler, M. und Zobel. F. (2016): Alkoholmarketing und –Verkauf über das Internet: Eine Auslegeordnung. Synthese der vier Teilprojekte. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Review of the literature: Marthaler, M. (2015): Online-Alkoholmarketing. Strategien, Wirkung und Regulierung. Literaturreview. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Monitoring of the alcohol marketing on the internet: Marthaler, M., Mendez, N. und Zobel, F. (2016): Beobachtung des Alkoholmarketings im Internet. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Regulation of alcohol marketing in the internet: Marthaler, M. (2015): Alkoholwerbung im Internet. Rechtliche Rahmenbedingungen in der Schweiz, Selbstregulierung der Alkoholindustrie und Richtlinien der social media-Plattformen. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] Online mystery-shopping: Marthaler, M. und Mendez, N. (2015): Online Testkäufe. Verkauf von Alkohol über das Internet. Lausanne: Sucht Schweiz. [LINK] See also http://www.addictionsuisse.ch/
The Monitoring Alcohol Marketing Practices in Africa (MAMPA) Project was a public health surveillance program devoted to monitoring alcohol marketing activities in the African region as well as youth exposure to these marketing activities. Data on alcohol marketing was collected in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, the Gambia, Kenya, Malawi and Namibia. The main conclusions of this independent analysis of this MAMPA data are:
  • The findings of the report provide evidence of violations of industry self-regulation codes in the seven countries studied
  • The findings points to the need for systematic surveillance of alcoholic beverage marketing to protect vulnerable populations, such as youth, who may already be experiencing problems related to their alcohol use.
  • The report underscores the need for policy strategies to more effectively monitor and regulate alcohol advertising across all media outlets.
  • The report points out that a variety of options exist, including complete bans on alcohol advertising.
  This secondary analysis of the original MAMPA marketing data confirms the conclusions of the original MAMPA report, in that it provides strong evidence of code violations in all media evaluated, and suggests that exposure to potentially harmful alcohol marketing content is widespread in six of the seven countries studied. These reports also raise questions about the effectiveness of current industry efforts to regulate alcohol marketing. The report (full text, including an executive summary) can be downloaded via this link. 
Leading public health experts warn that youth around the world are exposed to extensive alcohol marketing, and that current controls on that marketing appear ineffective in blocking the association between youth exposure and subsequent drinking. Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for young males aged 15-24 in nearly every region of the world, and young females of the same age in the wealthy countries and the Americas. The experts call for governments around the world to renew their efforts to address the problem by strengthening the rules governing alcohol marketing with more effective independent statutory regulations. Their call coincides with the publication of a series of reports in a supplement to the scientific journal Addiction that presents the latest evidence on alcohol marketing and its impact on children. Key findings from the collection of peer-reviewed manuscripts include:
  • Exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with youth alcohol consumption
  • Analysis of alcohol promotion during the 2014 FIFA World Cup indicates alcohol marketing practices frequently appeared to breach industry voluntary codes of practice
  • Alcohol industry self-regulatory codes do not sufficiently protect children and adolescents from exposure to alcohol promotions, especially through social media
The Addiction supplement comprises 14 papers, with research presented from around the world. Lead editor Professor Thomas Babor, of the University of Connecticut, says: “Governments are responsible for the health of their citizens.  No other legal product with such potential for harm is as widely promoted and advertised in the world as alcohol. These papers provide a wealth of information to support governments in their efforts to protect children and other vulnerable populations from exposure to alcohol marketing.” As an example, the marketing activities of Heineken can be described. International experts consider it a catastrophe that Heineken goes further and further in terms of marketing, in particular at Formula 1 sports. Every year, Heineken reaches around 400 million TV viewers worldwide. Wim van Dalen, President of EUCAM and Director of the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP says: “This form of sponsoring reaches millions of minors worldwide. Furthermore, alcohol is associated in a positive way with driving – this is totally unacceptable.” Chris Brookes of the UK Health Forum noted that “Governments have previously approved self-regulatory measures on alcohol advertising; however, we can no longer say that they might work to protect our young people – they don’t. In a literature review of more than 100 studies, none was identified that supported the effectiveness of industry self-regulation programmes.” The papers offer guidelines to developing more effective alcohol marketing regulations:
  • The most effective response to alcohol marketing is likely to be a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship, in accordance with each country’s constitution or constitutional principles.
  • Regulations should be statutory, and enforced by an appropriate public health agency of the local or national government, not by the alcohol industry.
  • Regulations should be independent of the alcohol industry, whose primary interest lies in growing its markets and maximizing profits.
  • A global agreement on the marketing of alcoholic beverages would support country efforts to move towards a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship.
  • Collaboration with other population-level efforts to restrict marketing of potentially harmful products, such as ultra-processed food, sugary beverages, tobacco, and breast-milk substitutes, should be encouraged and supported.
The journal supplement is funded by Alcohol Research UK and the Institute of Alcohol Studies, with the authors and editors of the supplement giving their time to produce these papers pro bono. The papers originated in work undertaken by the UK Health Forum to bring EU and US alcohol policy leads together, with funding from the EU. The specific papers were developed for a meeting on alcohol marketing convened by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  This collection of papers represents the highest level of scholarly attention devoted to this issue that has been brought together in the pages of one scientific journal. -- Ends – This is a verbatim copy of the press release that has been published here: http://www.addictionjournal.org/press-releases/current-controls-on-alcohol-marketing-are-not-protecting-youth-warn-public-heal  For editors: The Addiction supplement, Alcohol marketing regulation: From research to public policy, is free to download from the Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/add.v112.S1/issuetoc Media seeking interviews with lead author Prof. Thomas Babor, Chair, Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, University of Connecticut, can contact him by telephone (+1 860 679 5459) or email (babor@nso.uchc.edu). The UK Health Forum is a registered charity whose mission is to operate as a centre of expertise, working with and through their members to contribute to the prevention of the avoidable non-communicable diseases - coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, respiratory diseases and vascular dementia. http://www.ukhealthforum.org.uk Alcohol Research UK is an independent charity that tackles alcohol-related harm by funding high quality, impartial research. http://alcoholresearchuk.org The Institute of Alcohol Studies is a registered charity (number 1112671) aiming to educate, preserve and protect the good health of the public by promoting the scientific understanding of beverage alcohol and the individual, societal and health consequences of its consumption and promoting measures for the prevention of alcohol-related problems and to promote, for the public benefit, research into beverage alcohol and to publish the useful results.  http://www.ias.org.uk/ Addiction is a monthly international scientific journal publishing peer-reviewed research reports on alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco, and gambling as well as editorials and other debate pieces. Owned by the Society for the Study of Addiction, it has been in continuous publication since 1884. Addiction is the number one journal in the 2016 ISI Journal Citation Reports ranking in the substance abuse category for both science and social science editions.  www.addictionjournal.org
Criticism of EUCAM on research “Social Media Age Check Alcohol-adverteerders” by R2 Research commissioned by STIVA in the Netherlands.  STIVA (Foundation for Responsible Alcohol consumption), an association of Dutch manufacturers and importers of beer, wine and spirits, commissioned research institute R2 Research to study the scope of alcohol marketing through social media. The conclusion of this study states that the national Advertising code for Alcoholic drinks, which has been amended in 2012, protects minors sufficiently against advertisement through social media. The STIVA website states that 98,5% of advertisements of alcohol brands are seen by people of 18 years or older, and thus the percentage of under aged people being reached by social media alcohol advertisements is only 1,5%.[1] Strikingly, these results are contrary to earlier peer-reviewed, scientific research published in reputable scientific journals. For example, according to research by De Bruijn et al., conducted in four European countries including the Netherlands, young people are frequently exposed to online alcohol marketing.[2] High exposure of young people to online alcohol marketing is confirmed by several studies, for example the longitudinal European research by De Bruijn et al.[3] and research by Winpenny et al.[4] Also, this study by R2 Research evokes many methodological questions by EUCAM (European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing):
  1. STIVA only published a short summary of the results and a brief description of the methodology of the study, which makes it not possible to verify how the research has exactly been conducted. It also makes it impossible to replicate this research, a generally recognized principle of scientific research. EUCAM contacted STIVA for access to the original report, but received a negative response.
  2. The short summary given by STIVA does not indicate how is dealt with the so-called ‘inter-rater reliability’ in the analysis of a total of 5815 statements (2620 beer brands, 695 wine brands, and 2500 distilled liquor brands). Social media marketing of nine alcohol brands on four social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) have been analysed at 3 different moments. Per moment, profiles of 100 ‘commenters’ on the social media advertisement were manually viewed. However, it is not clear how many researchers have been involved in this study and in what way it has been attempted to limit the differences in these measurements, which are likely to be performed by a number of different researchers.
  3. The STIVA study raises questions about how the age of the social media users is determined. The summary mentions that in case of doubt about the age,  it is tried to establish the age reaching the profile through another channel. However, how is this done exactly, and through which other channel? Also, in what cases was there doubt about the age, based on what? And in how many cases has this occurred, and in how many cases was it not possible to establish the user’s age through another channel?
  4. The study does not present a complete and realistic image of the exposure to alcohol marketing through social media, because only people who responded to the advertisement by means of a ‘comment’, ‘like’ or ‘share’ have been included in the study. However, the researchers did not look at the ‘followers’ of the alcohol brand on the social media channels. The reason for this according to the researchers, is that in this way “it can be assumed that they have actually seen the advertisement message”. There is some truth in that, but young people can frequently be exposed to alcohol marketing through social media by simply following these channels, without having actual interaction.
  5. The study was conducted at three different moments, between April and September 2015. These moments are close to each other, whereas it is now presented as if the amended Advertising code for Alcoholic drinks had a positive effect over the past five years. The study also does not describe the times at which the social media advertisements were analyzed. For example, was this during the day, when most young people are at school?
  6. Earlier research has shown that many young people on social media lie about their age to gain access to these channels.[5]-[6] For that reason, an age on social media, says not much about the actual age of an user. This finding undermines the whole foundation of this study Moreover, many users on social media have a private profile, and therefore the personal information is not visible. The report states that it was not in all cases possible to analyze 100 commenters per measuring moment; sometimes because there were no more (or no) responses available and sometimes because relatively many users protect their profile. In those cases, the research period has been extended or a more qualitative analysis has been used. However, when was this the case, what was the consequential attrition and what did this more qualitative analysis look like?

European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM) Supporting organisations: Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP, Alcohol & Society Denmark, AV.OG.TIL Norway, IOGT-NTO Sweden and Eurocare Italia

Contact: D. Lenssen MSc LL.M, Researcher, eucam@eucam.info Postbus 9769, 3506 GT Utrecht


[1] http://stiva.nl/nieuwsberichten/zelfregulering-alcoholmarketing-social-media-al-5-jaar-succesvol/ [2] De Bruijn, A., Engels, R., Anderson, P., Bujalski, M., Gosselt, J., Schreckenberg, D., Wohtge, J. & De Leeuw, R. (2016). Exposure to online alcohol marketing and adolescent’s drinking: a cross-sectional study in four European countries. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 1-7, http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/agw020 [3] De Bruijn, A., Tanghe, J., De Leeuw, R., Engels, R., Anderson, P., Beccaria, F., Bujalski, M., Celata, C., Gosselt, J., Schreckenberg, D., Słodownik, L., Wothge J. & Van Dalen, W. (2016). European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use, Addiction, 10.1111/add.13455 [4] Winpenny, E.M., Marteau, T.M. & Nolte, E. (2014). Exposure of Children and Adolescents to Alcohol Marketing on Social Media Websites. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 49(2), 154–159, doi:  10.1093/alcalc/agt174 [5] O’Neill, B., Grehan, S. &  Ólafsson K. (2011). Risks and safety for children on the internet: the Ireland report. LSE, London: EU Kids Online. [6] Landon, J., Graff, H. & Westerman, L. (2015). Alcohol marketing and young people – a literature review and mapping exercise. UK Health Forum for Public Health England.
According to Russian RMAA Group, the prohibition on any advertising for beer has been eased because of the upcoming Football World Cup Championship in 2018. Did the FIFA exert such pressure that alcohol marketing is relaxed for 3 years – as part of the agreement with sponsors? In 2018, the Football World Cup will be organised in Russia. According to the Russian RMAA Group, the prohibition on any advertising for beer on radio, TV, printed media and online has been eased until the end of 2018 because of the upcoming Football World Cup. Chris Brookes, Director of the UK Health Forum states that "It is inappropriate that FIFA can demand that countries relax rules which protect their citizens and in particular children from the harm caused by alcohol." The FIFA has taken a very strong position regarding alcohol during World Cups. As stated by Jerome Valcke (FIFA’s secretary) in 2012: “Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate,”  as FIFA campaigned against the ban in Brazil. “The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.” Furthermore, “umbrella branding" is promoted by the RMAA Group, in order to avoid the advertising limitations that are still in place (e.g. not depicting human or animal characters). However, advertising non-alcoholic beer can have a large impact on establishing the alcoholic brand as such, because the same brand name is used for promoting non-alcohol and alcoholic products.     
New research by Noel and colleagues shows that violations of the content guidelines within self-regulated alcohol marketing codes are highly prevalent in certain media. Exposure to alcohol marketing, particularly among youth, is also prevalent. Taken together, the findings suggest that the current self-regulatory systems that govern alcohol marketing practices are not meeting their intended goal of protecting vulnerable populations. With governments relying increasingly upon the alcohol industry’s self-regulated marketing codes to restrict alcohol marketing activity, there is a need to summarize the findings of research relevant to alcohol marketing controls. This paper provides a systematic review of studies investigating the content of, and exposure to, alcohol marketing in relation to self-regulated guidelines. Reference: Jonathan K. Noel, Thomas F. Babor and Katherine Robaina, Industry self-regulation of alcohol marketing: a systematic review of content and exposure research, Addiction, (2016). DOI: 10.1111/add.13410 This article has been included in the EUCAM scientific publications database. The article can be downloaded in the Wiley Online Library.    
Eurocare (European Alcohol Policy Alliance) wrote an open letter to the CEO of Carlsburg and the CEO of Olvi plc: "Why threaten the Estonia Government when they are trying to ensure you have healthy consumers?": In this letter, Eurocare asks Carlsberg and Olvi to reconsider their policy and instead of withdrawing their companies from Estonia if that government continues with their alcohol policy plans, congratulate Estonia Government for prioritising the health of its citizens. In the meanwhile, Estonia has indicated that alcohol policies will be one of the priorities during the Estonian EU Presidency. Ossinovski said on social media that EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis acknowledged Estonia's plans to toughen alcohol policy domestically during a meeting in Brussels. "We agreed that within the framework of the presidency, Estonia will put the focus on several Europe-wide topics of alcohol policy from online marketing to labeling of alcohol," the Estonian minister stated. To download the letter from Eurocare, please click here.  For an overview of the current regulations on alcohol marketing in Estonia, please click here. Source: http://eurocare.org/library/updates/why_threaten_the_estonia_government_when_they_are_trying_to_ensure_you_have_healthy_consumers   
New EUCAM Trend Report: “Heineken all over. An analysis of the youth friendly marketing strategy of Heineken” EUCAM has collected marketing materials from one of the world’s beer giants, the Dutch brewer Heineken to provide an overview of the integrated marketing strategy in the Netherlands. Heineken uses both traditional media and new media to a wide range of target groups, including marketing that is attractive to minors as well. To download the report, click here. Prestigious price for European longitudinal study on alcohol marketing exposure andscf5397d alcohol use Avalon de Bruijn and Colleagues recently received a prestigious price for their European longitudinal research on alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use: The 2016 President’s Award from the European Society for Prevention Research. This price has awarded for its “Outstanding Prevention Science Research” in 2016. AVMSD: ongoing lobby process in Brussels and the Netherlands The lobby process as part of the revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive – the only regulation for alcohol marketing on European level, is in full swing. In collaboration with 40 European health organisations, EUCAM has published a press release and the declaration ‘3 steps towards healthier marketing’. A Dutch press release has been published as well.  Members of the European Parliament are being approached in order to present our vision and amendments. On 1 December, the successful event “AVMSD: What about our kids?” took place in the European Parliament. It is expected that voting rounds in the European Parliament will take place from January 2017. Upcoming research into alcohol marketing on social media and the EUCAM Monitoring App knipsel3 In 2017, EUCAM will conduct research into alcohol marketing on social media. Also, EUCAM is promoting it’s Monitoring App in order to provide insight in alcohol marketing activities in Europe and beyond. If your organisation is interested in joining the research on social media or using the EUCAM Monitoring App, please contact us at dlenssen@eucam.info Updated section on the EUCAM Website: Regulations on alcohol marketing The ‘Regulations on alcohol marketing’ section on the EUCAM website has been updated. The section contains extended information on statutory regulations and self-regulations on alcohol marketing in 30 European countries. Upcoming: global launch of several alcohol marketing publications In January 2017, several documents based upon the MAMPA (Monitoring Alcohol Marketing in Africa) project conducted by STAP, EUCAM and WHO AFRO will be launched. Stay tuned! Last but not least: the EUCAM team wishes you happy holidays and a healthy, fruitful 2017. Please click here if you want to subscribe for the EUCAM Newsletter.  Please click here to download the EUCAM Newsletter - December 2016.