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.
On basis of the evidence on the effectiveness of self-regulation, EPHA concluded that there is no justification for endorsing self-regulation as policy mechanism to deliver public health objectives.  As follow-up to the event "Self-regulation: a false promise for public health?", held on 18 October 2016 in the European Parliament, EPHA (European Public Health Alliance) published a briefing paper addressing the evidence on the effectiveness of self-regulation for attaining health objectives. EPHA concludes that, based on available evidence, there is no justification for endorsing self-regulation as policy mechanism to deliver public health objectives. Voluntary commitments have not delivered the required breakthrough to improve public health outcomes in the area of alcohol harm and unhealthy diet. It is stated that evolving away from the use of self-regulation in public health policy would be a logical next step. It would help cut ambiguity, allow attention to focus on the most effective ways of dealing with societal challenges and allow a consistent approach to emerge towards the divergent roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the process. Download the briefing paper via this link.  Event website
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 been granted for the article "European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use", and has been awarded for its "Outstanding Prevention Science Research Paper" in 2016. This unique study examined the effect of alcohol marketing exposure on adolescents’ drinking in a cross-national context. There appeared to be a one-way effect of alcohol marketing exposure on adolescents’ alcohol use over time, which cannot be explained by either previous drinking or exposure to non alcohol-branded marketing. Reference: Avalon de Bruijn, Jacqueline Tanghe, Rebeccade Leeuw, Rutger Engels, Peter Anderson, Franca Beccaria, Micha ł Bujalski, Corrado Celata, Jordy Gosselt, Dirk Schreckenberg, Luiza Słodownik, Jördis Wothge & Wim van Dalen (2016). European longitudinal study on the relationship between adolescents’ alcohol marketing exposure and alcohol use. Addiction,  doi:10.1111/add.13455. The article (full text) can be downloaded here.   
Research suggest that YouTube music videos promote positive associations with alcohol use. In the study “F*ck It! Let’s Get to Drinking—Poison our Livers!”: a Thematic Analysis of Alcohol Content in Contemporary YouTube Music Videos, researchers examine and describe the portrayal of alcohol content in popular YouTube music videos. This study shows that several alcohol companies adopt marketing strategies in the video medium that are entirely inconsistent with their own or other agreed advertising codes of practice.It is concluded 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. The analysis found that alcohol content was associated with sexualised imagery or lyrics and the objectification of women. Also, 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. The study builds upon previous research (see this and this link) that showed that popular YouTube music videos are watched by a large number of British adolescents, particularly girls, and include significant tobacco and alcohol content, including branding. This study has been included in the scientific publications database of EUCAM that can be accessed via this link.
In April 2016, EUCAM filed a complaint against a radio-commercial from the supermarket chain "Jumbo" for alcoholic drinks, that has been broadcasted multiple times at NPO Radio 1 between 06:00 and 21:00. The Dutch Media Authority warned this radio channel for their breach of the Dutch Media Law.  The Dutch Media Wet 2008 (Media Law) stipulates that there is ban in place for advertising alcoholic beverages between 06:00 and 21:00 (see also this page for more information on alcohol marketing regulations in the Netherlands: http://eucam.info/regulations-on-alcohol-marketing/netherlands/) The Dutch Commissariaat voor de Media (Media Authority), that upholds the rules which are formulated in the Dutch Media Act, has asked the media-institution NPO Radio 1 to adhere to the rules to protect minors from exposure to marketing for alcoholic beverages. The Dutch Media Authority has given NPO Radio 1 a warning as a result of their breach of the Media Law.  
In 2017, the European marketing Directive will be revised - the only European legislation in the area of alcohol marketing. EUCAM (European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing) and the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy STAP believe that the Dutch government has to grasp this once in a decade opportunity. EUCAM and STAP believe that the Dutch government has to grasp this unique opportunity to strengthen the rules on alcoholmarketing, to ensure that the Directive offers better guarantees for protecting youth from the harmful effects of alcohol marketing. Up until now, the Dutch government has taken the position that it favors the liberalization of the current rules on advertising, product placement and sponsoring, which will lead to less protection for youth from alcohol marketing. For the press release (in Dutch), click here.  For the Alcohol manifesto (in Dutch), click here. For an earlier press release that has been published with 40 European health organisations (in English), click here.  For the declaration "3 steps towards healthier marketing" (in English), click here.