G. Ferrarese, Dr. H. Hendriks and Ir. W.E. van Dalen (2020). The influence of digital alcohol marketing on drinking behaviour. EUCAM. 


“It’s at night that our dreams come true. Don’t be afraid to discover your dark side” (Jägermeister, 2019), and “True passions can’t be tamed” (Bacardi, 2014), are just some of the slogans used by alcohol companies that, as Jernigan implied in 2002, are not only selling whisky, but a set of values. At first, this was done through TV advertisements or through radio and outdoor billboards; however, even though these are still effective channels, nowadays advertising is often done in new digital ways of communication.

Worldwide 43% of the whole population is consuming alcohol (2.438 billion people) (World Health Organisation, 2018); with 39.5% prevalently engaging in binge-drinking, that is drinking 5 or more drinks on at least one single occasion at least once per month” (WHO, 2018).

Many studies suggest that being exposed to alcohol marketing on traditional media is positively associated with more consumption, more frequency of binge drinking, and earlier commencement of consumption (e.g. Anderson, de Bruijn, Angus, Gordon & Hastings, 2009; Jernigan, Noel, Landon, Thornton & Lobstein, 2016). Furthermore, it is known that the alcohol industry put much effort into advertising its products, since alcoholic beverages are among the most publicised commodities (Heimonen & Uusitalo, 2009). The total annual sales of the largest alcoholic beverages companies,  range from $9.4 billion in Denmark, until $56.4 billion in Belgium (IOGT International & Big Alcohol Exposed, 2019).

The digital world is made of many “routes” that can be exploited, such as blogs, emails, microblogging, online chats, podcasts (Coetzee, Wilkinson & Krige, 2016), but Social Network Sites (SNS), which are interactive web-based applications, are used by 3.169 billion people worldwide (We are social, 2018), and companies know that. Moreover, among teenagers, 71% uses more than one SNS, mostly Facebook (66%), followed by Instagram (half of adolescents), and Snapchat (Lenhart, 2015). Indeed, SNS have many different “scopes and functionalities” (Kietzmann, Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre, 2011), as well as a potential that is not only understood by consumers but also by companies, that all try to identify profitable ways of using of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter; accordingly, these new tools and strategies are trying to adapt to this relatively new environment, and so are adolescents, as well as younger and older adults, who, although their mastery in doing such, can also be recognised as victims of marketing whose intent is to advert alcohol. On top of that, it has been shown that for minors, for instance, there are no effective filters to access online alcohol marketing (Jones, Thom, Davoren & Barrie, 2014).

Still, the majority of the studies examine marketing through ‘traditional media’, but since SNS are growing faster and faster, it is probable that the digital marketing will loom over the traditional one. In addition to this, digital media, and particularly SNS, are the perfect environments for companies to advert since they can trace real needs of users that could turn into consumers. In fact, considering that social media are created for interactions between members, to make them connect with friends, family, and colleagues, but also to like and share their preferences, it is the best “habitat” to gain valuable information. This is also due to the fact that through digital media, content can now be targeted at an individual level, based on users’ preferences and tastes, in many different contexts such as a tablet, a phone or a computer. This reality further leads, not only to receiving a more personalised content, but also to an active involvement on behalf of users, who have the change of properly interacting with marketing (Critchlow, MacKintosh, Hooper, Thomas & Vohra, 2019). What is more is that, even if there exist regulations in regard to the way alcohol can be sponsored through traditional media, only a few countries have adopted new measures to be applied to digital media, such as in Finland (Montonen & Tuominen, 2017), Lithuania and Estonia (www.EUCAM.info).  

In accordance with the abovementioned, it is urgent to dig deeper into the association between online alcohol marketing and drinking behaviours, as to realise which are the real decisions to make as to better regulate digital alcohol marketing. Despite the fact that it might be challenging because of the multiplicity of channels pertaining to the digital world, the current study will carefully examine studies that consider the aforementioned relationship, in order to have more concrete answers to the ongoing phenomenon. As a consequence, the main research question of the current study can be summarised as follows:

“Is there an association between digital alcohol marketing and alcohol consumption?”


2.1 Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Included studies examined the association between digital alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour. The main restriction regarded the design of the research, since it was decided to only include descriptive, correlational and (semi-) experimental studies without including reviews and meta-analytic studies. On the other hand, there were no restrictions on the target group. Still, because of the newness of the media and as of a requirement for the DEEP SEAS’ European project, it was decided to include only articles published after 2000 until nowadays. Also for countries, no limitations were applied. Some studies were only targeting young people, others only young adults or college students; overall, the sample ranges from 11 to 64 years old.

  • Variables

First of all, we defined digital alcohol marketing as the promotion and branding of alcohol products by the industry, on the Internet, and on social media. This includes: website pages, emails, downloadable content, smartphone applications, and social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube. The drinking behaviour is always reported by respondents taking part in the studies.

  • Search strategy

Six databases were used to search, after which nine articles were retrieved from Web of Science, five from PubMed, two from PsychINFO, two from ScienceDirect, three from Taylor & Francis Online, and one from Wiley Online Library. Initially, also Medline, Jstor and Tandfonline were used for the search, but they gave no suitable results. The search string slightly varied according to the database, but overall relevant terms were always present, and articles were selected by relevance. Also, in the search string, terms such as ‘NOT HIV’ and ‘NOT health-care’ were applied after the first attempts at researching relevant articles. That was needed since without it, the most highlighted papers in the databases were indeed about illnesses related to drinking alcohol. The same explanation goes for using ‘NOT political comm*’, again because articles regarding political communication were interfering and slowing down the research process. Articles were included based on the relevance of the title and the abstract, and if it could not be eliminated with definiteness, the entire paper was fully analysed.

            Through applying all search strings, 89 articles were found, which were further reduced to 72 after excluding duplicates. After carefully reviewing the 72 papers, those that were appropriate for the sake of this research, finally resulted in 22 articles  That is, 50 studies were not included in the final review because they did not strictly analyse the main relationship of our interest, that is, association between exposure to digital alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour; more precisely, they would analyse similar correlations taking into consideration participants’ (self)posting and consequent drinking behaviour, or one’s use of social media and drinking consumption


3.1 Differences and similarities

The target group’s age varies, from 11 to 29 years old, and the sample sizes range from 120 to 9,075 respondents, resulting into 40,870 respondents. The majority of the studies (nine) are from 2016, but data range from 2010 until February 2019; Eight studies were conducted in the United States, three in Taiwan, two in Germany, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands (comparison studies), one in New Zealand. Four of the reviewed studies took place in Australia, one of these making a cross-sectional comparison with India; four studies were conducted in the UK, with two of them in the West of Scotland.

Seventeen studies were conducted through online surveys, two of them included also a paper and a F2F questionnaire. One was achieved through a paper survey alone, and one through the CATI (computer assisted telephone interviewing) system. Only three studies’ designs were experiments, while eight were longitudinal studies and eleven cross-sectionals. An important distinction has to be done between minors and young adults, which are the main target group of every study; accordingly, ten studies only examine minors (11-17), whilst four exclusively analyse young adults (18-35). Still, four studies include in the sample both minors and young adults, and one includes people from 21 to 64 years old.

3.2 Frequency of exposure to and participation with digital alcohol marketing 

            The studies included in this review, tend to examine awareness of alcohol marketing or participation with it, through a series of digital media, sometimes including traditional media as well.

            Accordingly, by comparing the articles, the first element that comes to attention is that SNS, when present in the list of media, are the ones resulting with the highest frequency of awareness of advertising (or right after another medium), whilst regarding the studies that only include SNS to measure awareness of digital marketing, present very high percentages; for instance, Gupta et al. (2018), report that in India 67% of the sample noticed advertisement on SNS, whilst 63% saw alcohol-related suggestions on SNS. Similarly, a study conducted in the UK (Critchlow et al., 2016) reports that its respondents are aware of alcohol marketing on SNS by 65%; still, the same study records the highest awareness on OnDemand TV as digital channel, indeed followed by SNS, and websites with a 50%. In fact, also on the website individuals report noticing sponsored alcohol, with a 72% in Taiwan (Chen et al., 2017) among alcohol experienced respondents, and a 55% in the USA, among a sample aged 15-20 (McClure et al., 2016). Similarly, 65% of a large European sample (9075) had actually noticed an alcohol-related Internet page (Bruijn, Tanghe et al., 2016). Another study conducted in Australia (Jones et al., 2016) reports that amidst the sample, 16.3% sees alcohol advertisements on Facebook in a typical week, but 87.5% sees the same from one to four times in a month, concluding with a 12.5% that monthly sees from five to eight alcohol-related sponsored content.

            In regard to participation, the frequency of such use is slightly smaller compared to the awareness, therefore “conscious” exposure; respectively, if 55% respondents had seen an advertisement on a website (McClure et al., 2016), as a matter of fact only 6% visited a website containing alcohol information or content. The latter percentage appears also from a study by Lin et al. (2012) among those defined as drinkers in the sample, whilst using a SNS containing an alcohol brand was more common (18%) for drinkers from the same study. Considering the large sample from the study by Bruijn et al. (2016) even if looking at a website is an action followed by 25% of respondents, it is still a small number, whilst it is more common to use a profile on SNS containing an alcohol brand or logo (33%). Nonetheless, what seems more popular is in point of fact watching videos either on SNS (Hoffman et al., 2014), or on the web (Critchlow et al., 2016); in the first study the percentage reaches half of the sample, while the second even 54%. Very often, the studies also include emails or promotional emails as digital medium through which one might be exposed or decide to “engage” with. However, the frequency of either receiving an email about alcohol promotions for instance, or engaging with it, is relatively low, considering a sample from the UK who affirms to be aware of such medium by a 4%, and engage with it by a 7% (Gordon et al., 2010). Likewise, in New Zealand Lin et al. (2012) show that only 5% of non-drinkers and 9% of drinkers are aware of emails, while higher percentages come both from Europe and the UK, with a 35% (Bruijn, Tanghe et al., 2016) and a 33% (Critchlow et al., 2016). The latter also measures participation with such medium, and results are consistent with the aforementioned studies, showing that only 6% of participants would engage in this activity.

            To conclude, it is pivotal to mention that no generalisations can be derived from these results, since the studies used for this review decide which media to include, and lists should not be considered exhaustive. Accordingly, the summary of these particular results is made for the sake of clarifying and considering them through a simplified look. Notwithstanding, it can be said that social networking sites are a medium through which alcohol-related content is sponsored and both minors and (young) adults notice that; on top of that, they know how to engage with it and consequently do so. Correspondingly, websites in general are also a noticed way of sponsoring alcohol, but opposed to this, are not a medium through which individuals tend to look for.

To sum up, SNS can be considered the most impactful medium in terms of being more recognised and through which participants engage the most.  

            3.3 What is the impact of digital alcohol advertising on the drinking behaviour of young people?

The review included twenty-two articles examining the association between digital alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour of individuals, considering both minors and (young) adults. As previously discussed, the variable regarding digital alcohol marketing aims at measuring exposure of participants to such marketing; still, in the present studies it is also usually involved the level of awareness, engagement or participation with marketing activities (e.g. liking a post or downloading an app).

To sum up, the results of this research show that, overall, there is a positive and significant association between being exposed to digital alcohol marketing and consequent drinking behaviour. More specifically, the studies investigate the association between exposure and/or engagement with digital alcohol marketing and if the individual augments the drinking’s frequency, initiates drinking or engages in binge drinking; the latter also considered as ‘hazardous drinking’ or ‘HED’ (heavy episodic drinking).

 More precisely, nineteen articles prove that the investigated relationship is positively correlated, whilst only two researches show a negative result; one article has a positive association until gender is taken into consideration in the analysis. Anew, based on these results, it is possible to affirm that digital alcohol marketing has indeed an impact on the way an individual drink or even start drinking, although it is pivotal to mention the fact that a causality effect cannot be derived from any of the examined studies.

Apart from the three studies investigating the association through experiments (Alhabash et al., 2016; Noel & Babor, 2018; Noel et al., 2018), the other articles included several media, the majority of which encompass (promotional) emails, websites, mobile phones and SNS. Awareness of these media and the consequent exposure to them is consistently high among the studies, starting from the most recent one by Critchlow et al. (2019) that registers a 66% of participants having either a medium or high awareness (also including traditional media in this case). But also, Chen et al. (2017) in their research conducted in Taiwan, indicate that 60% of respondents, that is 1124 of 1863 individuals, is aware of receiving alcohol marketing-related activities in the last 14 days, while 18% is aware of receiving so in the last 15 days or more.

However, data regarding the drinking situation among minors and (young) adults is also relevant to mention, as to have a broader image of the ongoing studied phenomenon. Respectively, a two-stage cohort longitudinal study (Harris et al., 2015) shows that among a sample of 920 12-14 years old respondents, 36% was categorised as drinker; a number that increased up to 62% at the age of 14-16 when measured in the second wave (552 participants). Also, amongst those who did not drink, 30% initiate such habit, whilst at the age of 15 eighty-six adolescents engaged in binge drinking. Likewise, Chang et al. (2014) indicate that 285 (20%) out of 1427 minors from the 10th grade started drinking the year after, while amidst those who already drunk (590 = 41,3%), 67% was persistently drinking the year after. Similarly, two different studies examining samples aged 18-25 (Critchlow et al., 2016) and 18-22 (Roberson et al., 2018), therefore young adults, also report high levels of alcohol consumption with 76% of respondents in the first study engaging in binge drinking, and 42% in the second. Both studies substantiate the conclusion that, the higher the awareness of digital alcohol marketing, the higher the engagement with such hazardous drinking behaviour; but most importantly, the older the more s/he drinks. However, the last aspect has a further implication. Accordingly, it has also been examined whether marketing exposure increases with age, and eight studies confirmed this hypothesis. Although the number seems small, the other articles do not specifically take into consideration this correlation, thence not making it possible to actually fully investigating it.

As discussed above, each of the mentioned studies, as well as the remaining majority of this review, result into further proving the examined relationship in terms of correlation and significance, thence demonstrating the importance of it, and the urgency of carrying on similar researches. Albeit the consistent results, there are some differences that should be outlined based on gender, age, and country of origin, that will be discussed in the next paragraphs.

3.4 Do effects of ads depend on characteristics of the viewer?

             On the basis of the studies analyzed, it is possible to further investigate the relationship between data such as age, gender and country of origin on the one hand and exposure to alcohol advertising via digital media on the other.

            Accordingly, it is interesting to see that in the studies including only (young) adults, the association results into being positive for each investigation. It is true that three of them (Alhabash et al., 2016; Noel & Babor, 2018; Noel et al., 2018) are experiments, therefore do not examine a real exposure, but they can actually affirm that being exposed to such content in the web 1.0 and 2.0, is positively associated to registering higher levels of alcohol consumption, as well as higher intention to drink. Among this sample, it can be noticed that eight studies are conducted in the USA (Hoffman et al., 2014; Cabrera et al., 2016; Alhabash et al., 2016; Hoffman et al., 2017; Noel & Babor, 2018; Noel et al., 2018; Roberson et al., 2018; McClure et al., 2016), probably because of the strict regulations that do not allow to sell alcohol to those under 21 years old, thence focusing mainly on this target group, which should still be considered as a vulnerable one. In respect to the aforementioned, another communality of the studies measuring (young) adults and that prove a positive effect, is that they are from the USA, and this is outlined since only one article conducted in America, include both minors and young adults (McClure et al., 2016). Amidst the studies on (young) adults, two are from Australia (Jones et al., 2016; Carrotte et al., 2016) that include in their sample not only adults but also adolescents from the age of 15; interestingly, the study by Carrotte et al. (2016) reveals that although there is no significant difference between the sample, older people consume more alcohol, and undeniably those consuming more alcohol were those engaging with and being more exposed to digital marketing. Only one study amongst these is from the UK (Critchlow et al., 2016), and its results do prove that between young adults, awareness has increased compared to previous researches, and is also higher compared to traditional media. To conclude, which elements do all these studies have in common? They all analyse adults and young adults (M = 23,5) and all present positive associations between exposure to and engagement with digital alcohol marketing and higher consumptions of alcohol or even hazardous ways of drinking. In accordance to the aforementioned, regardless of the country the study was conducted, the association always proves to be consistent among young adults.

            Conversely, the studies examining only minors are slightly more diverse between each other. The majority still proves positive associations (Gordon et al., 2010; Jones et al., 2011; Lin et al., 2012; Chang et al., 2014; Harris et al., 2015; de Bruijn, Tanghe et al., 2016; de Bruijn et al., 2016; McClure et al., 2016; Chen et al., 2017; Critchlow et al., 2019; Carrotte et al., 2016; Jones et al., 2016), whilst only two studies do not confirm the expectations of this review (Chen et al., 2016; Gupta et al., 2018). This “sample” includes several countries of origin, such as UK, Scotland, New Zealand, Taiwan, India, Australia and the United States. Anew, the coherence proved from the results indicates that overall there are high awareness and exposure that increases with frequency of drinking and quantities of alcohol. However, if differentiating the whole sample into minors & adolescents, and (young) adults, older people drink more than their younger counterparts. 

Combining all the studies, an element that brings together all those researches that take into consideration gender, is that males, no matter the age, not simply consume more alcohol compared to females, confirming what previous researches already affirmed. For instance, both studies from Australia, affirm that males’ adolescents and young adults consume more alcohol (Jones et al., 2011; Carrotte et al., 2016), with adolescents aged 12-15 whose drinking habits are regular, being also more exposed to digital alcohol marketing. Additionally, Australians have proved to drink more quantities of alcohol compared to their Indian counterparts (Gupta et al., 2018), whilst examining Indian males, older men do drink more than younger participants. Moreover, in Taiwan, males aged 13-15 are not only more likely to initiate drinking, but are also those who drink more persistently, and who have more alcohol experience (Chang et al., 2014; Chen et al., 2017). In accordance with the aforementioned investigations, also Hoffman et al. (2014), adds further consistency to these results, proving that being a male is associated with higher frequency of consuming alcoholic beverages. To continue, in the United States, McClure et al. (2016) found that being a male is correlated with being more aware, drinking more, and even engaging more in binge drinking, whilst Roberson et al. (2018), also from the USA, oppositely prove that females are those more aware of digital alcohol marketing. The experiment conducted by Alhabash et al. (2016) actually indicated that intention to consume alcohol is higher among females, but another experiment validated that desire to drink, which can be seen as similar to one’s intention to drink, is lower by 55% among females than males (Noel & Babor, 2018). To conclude, another investigation conducted through an experiment, revealed that among women, appeal of an advertisement containing alcohol-related products and its information is lower compared to men.

Still, apart from drinking more, males have shown to be more engaged with digital alcohol marketing, which is another crucial element to consider since it is an “adjunct” that leads to higher alcohol’s consumption levels. De facto, a study identifies both exposure to and engagement with digital alcohol marketing as marketing receptivity (McClure et al., 2016), and describes this engagement as being positively and significantly associated with men, as well as to those consuming  high quantities of alcohol beverages; and I believe that these aspects should be seen altogether in a bigger picture. To further sustain this fundamental feature, Carrotte et al. (2016) prove that males are actually more likely to be fans of alcohol marketing pages, of alcohol brands and alcohol retailers on social media, as well as liking posts, that is indeed an engagement with this type of marketing. Also in the UK, it has been shown that being a male is associated with higher frequency of engaging with hazardous drinking, and that this is further associated with participating more with digital alcohol marketing (Critchlow et al., 2019), once again connecting these facets of being a man and engage more with such “business”. Conversely, an American study (Roberson et al., 2018) using engagement as marketing receptivitycontradicts the aforementioned study (McClure et al., 2016) by sustaining the fact that college females are actually those being more influenced on drinking behaviour by engagement with digital marketing and also more impacted on the idea that drinking is a positive habit. Similarly, an experiment (Alhabash et al., 2016) demonstrates that based on the type of beverage presented in an advertisement, females reported higher intentions to consume alcohol, therefore showing that presenting an alcoholic beverage leads to higher intention but moderated by gender, and more specifically being a woman. However, to partly contradict these results, two different experiments (Noel & Babor, 2018; Noel et al., 2018) report that, first, desire to drink is actually higher among men compared to women, and that being more involved with digital marketing leads to more source and informational appeal, which turn to be significantly associated with being a male.

Specifically, two studies show a correlation between level of alcohol consumption and being exposure to digital marketing, consequently leading to higher awareness (Jones et al., 2011; Critchlow et al., 2016), but indeed influenced by gender, and being a male in these cases.

To summarise all the discussed information, it can be said that gender is an important covariate to consider when analysing a relationship between digital alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour, since males seem to be more likely to engage in drinking compared to females, more aware, and indeed to consume higher quantities of alcohol, which is harmful already; also, this conclusion can be derived from nine studies, whilst the remaining thirteen do not investigate such variable considering gender, meaning that if we only consider the sample of studies that examine gender, they all have similar results.


            4.1 Recommendations for new research

            One of the main conclusions of this extensive literature review is that males not only drink more quantities of alcohol compared to women, but also engage more with binge drinking, are more exposed to and more engaged with digital alcohol marketing. In addition to this, albeit from this review it was derived that SNS are the most impactful medium through which digital alcohol marketing “operates”, it was also mentioned that several studies did not include exhaustive lists of media. Moreover, a portion of other articles were only investigating the effect of a certain medium, without measuring exposure to digital marketing by assessing a variety of channels (e.g. Gupta et al., 2018; Jones et al., 2016); therefore, the recommendation is, when a research aims at assessing or determining the level of exposure of an individual (indeed regarding digital alcohol marketing), it to always be as complete as possible when considering and presenting channels. However, another relevant point to discuss about is peer or family’s influence; in fact, although this aspect was not taken into consideration in the current review, almost every examined study also measured such variables, since it has been proved that peers and family and influencers can indeed have repercussions on an individual’s behaviour (e.g. Roberson et al., 2018; Rossow, Keating; Felix & McCambridge, 2015; Hayes, Smart, Toumborou & Sanson, 2004). Accordingly, when researching the relationship between digital alcohol marketing and drinking behaviour, researchers should always include peers and family’s (potential) influence in the analyses in order to have a clearer picture of the ongoing phenomenon. This literature review mainly observes the volume of exposure to digital alcohol marketing; however, the content present in such advertisements or promotions is also a feature that incorporate perhaps the most harmful element (in general the level of exposure is that actually influence alcohol consumption and hazardous drinking). This is why I think it is pivotal to conduct as much studies as possible that only examine the content created and delivered by alcohol brands and marketers, and consequently examine together content and volume of digital alcohol marketing. This way it will be possible to better tailor policies as to regulate the media landscape from those advertised substances and products which are extensively known to be dangerous for an individual’s health. Furthermore, by having an “elucidated” picture of the content delivered through the digital world, it will also be easier to understand how to regulate this type of marketing as to prevent young people from being targeted. On top of that, by examining the content, those researching in a more technical field of communication, can actually see and therefore explain to the scientific and academic world how marketing has developed and has adapted to the web 2.0. In addition to the abovementioned, I would recommend future studies to investigate the relationship between digital alcohol marketing and associated alcohol consumption through longitudinal studies. De facto, longitudinal studies are able to detect important changes in relation to the population’s characteristics, both at a general and individual level, and are consequently more useful to inspect a causality effect. This latter aspect is obviously a very important one, since the final goal of all the studies focused on this particular field, is to conclude which are the real factors that most likely influence the drinking behaviour of an individual, of both minors and (young) adults. Additionally, I consider essential to substantially focus researches regarding digital alcohol marketing on social networking sites, given the importance and trend of such medium in our current society. It is true that a considerable quantity of studies has already done so, but my advice is to continue and dig deeper into diverse social networks to realise how each one of them can have an impact on individuals. To conclude, still connected to SNS, an interesting and crucial facet to study with hand lens is social influencers; de facto, the real power of social media influencers has been discovered recently, and more specifically, the higher credibility and authenticity that these influencers are able to deliver, followed by a lower resistance to messages (de Veirman, Cauberghe & Hudders, 2017). What these people can do is, as the word suggests, to influence and reach an incredible quantity of people or “followers” both through theirs posts or by WOM (word of mouth), and this way they have a direct contact with potential buyers. Not by chance this “technique” is adopted by 75% of marketers (de Veirman et al., 2017), and as a consequence, I think it should be a priority to address this topic to future researches.

            4.2 Recommendations for policy measures

            In regard to policy measures, there is an urgency to better regulate digital marketing in relation to alcohol. Accordingly, it has been stated that there is an inefficiency on how to self-regulate alcohol brands, and among those who do no respect regulations, hefty fines are not to be worried about (Noel & Babor, 2016). Moreover, the British Medical Association has even defined the self-regulation of alcohol marketing as “entirely inadequate” (2009), therefore, as aforementioned, it is important to discuss this aspect. In fact, a technique widely used on the web or on SNS is to encourage individuals to engage with drinking, for instance by simply stimulate users to like a post, or by utilising user-generated content, and it has been noticed that usually no posts address responsible or moderate drinking (Nicholls, 2012). In accordance with the abovementioned, I believe that both user-generated content and comments are an issue that requires much scrupulousness, and policy makers could forbid brands from making use of these as to avoid too much engagement, particularly on social media. Correspondingly, on SNS new policies should ban any kind of advertisement, as for tobacco, since also from this review social networks seem to be the most impactful medium. Indeed, the European commission has banned tobacco marketing on the Internet, and this review confirms that this should also be applied to alcohol. Furthermore, some alcohol’s websites do not have age-verifying access, still, those who do have so, are so easily accessible; for instance, the Disaronno’s website simply asks, “are you of legal age to drink?” and a user can either answer yes or no, by consequently being redirected to the official website by clicking on ‘yes’. Accordingly, I think that an implementation on the strictness of such “entries” should take place or at least be revised. Other regulations should be applied to sponsorship activities that promote alcoholic beverages and to suggestions of alcohol being elemental for the success of a social event. More precisely, there are codes that do not allow brands to say that drinking alcohol is the “missing ingredient” to make a social event succeed, with the adjunct of not portraying those who appear to be under 25 years old in their sponsoring activities. Still, since the line between explicitly doing so and vice versa is very thin, this is actually an aspect that should receive much attention on behalf of policy makers. This review suggests that regulations should be applied to owned, paid and earned media, since each one of these has a way to escape from the already existing regulations. In addition to this, statutory regulations seems to be crucial in the changing process that has to be take place as soon as possible, since self-regulations eventually become too soft. Also, as it will be discussed in the next paragraph, an example of statutory policy did not actually have the expected success with as a result that policy makers should actually insist on being more strict, because if marketers were able to “twist” the situation and leverage on that, self-regulations might do even more harm.  

First attempts to regulate social media marketing in Finland

In January 2015 in Finland, the Finnish Alcohol Act became an active law presenting new restrictions on alcoholic beverages’ advertisements. The primary focus of this act was to restrict alcohol advertising on social media, specifically by banning any “indirect advertising and sales promotions if they involve taking part in a game, lottery or contest”. Also, the ban restricts the so-called user-generated content, and more specifically, the aim was to stop marketers from delivering a content meant to be shared with the public on social media. A study has conducted a comparison, both in Finland and Sweden, between brands’ presence and content and how new legislative actions has impacted individuals (Kauppila, Lindeman, Svesson, Hellman & Katainen, 2019). In relation to Finland, it was concluded that the amendment did not actually have an impact on the user engagement, since the study indicates that Finnish brands have managed to be more successful in regard to engaging consumers compared to 2014, when the Act was not into force. However, although user engagement declined in 2017, it was yet at a high percentage than it was in 2014. Furthermore, since the reform was tailored as to avoid minors from being exposed to alcohol marketing, it was expected a higher number of social media accounts to have integrated an age-control; however, only 28% of these social media accounts have actually done so. Accordingly, indeed it has been witnessed a decrease in user-generated content, but new restrictions have not prevented marketers and alcohol brands from creating a type of content which is still reaching enough users along with visibility.                  


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