The NEWDAILY, 11th April 2019

Research released this week exposed the lucrative, but largely undeclared, relationship between Australia’s top Instagram influencers and the alcohol industry.

The study by health promotion foundation VicHealth looked at how many of Australia’s top 70 influencers had collaborated with an alcohol brand in the past 12 months.

Photo: VicHealth

Researchers found alcohol was frequently featured in Instagram posts “in an editorial context”, with 73 per cent of the influencers featuring alcoholic drinks in their posts over that time period.

Despite the prevalence of alcoholic drinks, only 26 per cent of the influencers featured a “fully disclosed” sponsored alcohol collaboration with a brand.

“There is little consistency in the disclosure of paid collaborations. The ‘paid partnership’ Instagram feature was rarely used for alcohol collaborations,” the report said.

While influencers would use hashtags to denote a sponsored post, others did not disclose a paid collaboration but instead used the official campaign hashtags, which denoted a paid partnership, the report said.

Some posts had hallmarks of a collaboration with no clear disclosure.”

VicHealth manager of alcohol and tobacco Emma Saleeba said the lack of transparency was concerning because it made it hard for young people, who are primarily the targets of these tactics, to discern when they are being sold an ad or whether it’s a genuine post.

“The alcohol industry will use any tactics to sneak into the lives of young people,” she said. “We think most people would prefer to know if an Instagram influencer is being paid.”

Alcohol advertising in Australia is largely governed by the industry-regulated Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code. “That’s not working well based on our analysis. It’s an industry-run code. There are no sanctions for breaches and it’s voluntary,” Ms Saleeba said. “There is a need for proper regulation and sanctions for non-compliance, and you would find that would lift everyone’s game.”

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