- (Non systematic) review of the literature on the impact and the strategies of online marketing for alcohol
- Monitoring of online alcohol marketing via selected websites and Facebook pages
- Overview of the legal regulation of online alcohol marketing in Switzerland and the self-regulation of the industry
- Online mystery-shopping
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- Earlier research has shown that many young people on social media lie about their age to gain access to these channels.- 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, firstname.lastname@example.org Postbus 9769, 3506 GT Utrecht
 http://stiva.nl/nieuwsberichten/zelfregulering-alcoholmarketing-social-media-al-5-jaar-succesvol/  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  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  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  O’Neill, B., Grehan, S. & Ólafsson K. (2011). Risks and safety for children on the internet: the Ireland report. LSE, London: EU Kids Online.  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.
This review of currently available scientific literature shows exposure to online alcohol marketing leads to advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption.
Gap in the literature It has been well established by various studies that exposure to alcohol advertising affects the drinking behaviour of young people. Empirical- and review studies supporting this have been published in peer reviewed journals [1-4] and by the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission . However, there appears to be a gap in the literature and common knowledge when it comes to the specific measured effects of online alcohol marketing. To fill this gap, EUCAM initiated a non-systematic literature review which found 10 studies that in one way or another measured the effects of exposure to digital or online alcohol marketing on the drinking behaviour of young people.Main findings: • Two studies which did not specifically identify online alcohol marketing exposure, found positive associations with drinking, despite their broad scope [6, 7]. • Three studies, in which online alcohol marketing is part of a cumulative exposure measure, show a positive association between exposure to alcohol marketing and young people’s drinking behaviour [8-10]. • Three studies directly measured exposure to online alcohol marketing and showed strong positive associations [11-13]. • In these last three studies, effects ranged from advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption [11-13]. One study even suggests an association with binge drinking . • One study found that the effect of online alcohol advertising was almost twice as strong as that of traditional marketing . • It’s not just commercial advertising messages: In two studies a strong association has been found between young people explicitly presenting their selves as drinkers (assuming an ‘alcohol identity’) on social network sites and harmful drinking behaviour [14, 15]. • This last association exemplifies the problem of the lines being blurred between commercial advertising messages and user generated content on social media sites [14, 15].