Voxy.co.nz 20 March 2023

A new report from Australia highlights the significant community exposure to alcohol advertising through social media platforms.

Over a one-year period researchers observed nearly 40,000 advertisements from a subset of alcohol-related accounts on Meta platforms alone – equating to an average of 765 distinct alcohol advertisements per week.

Alcohol producers contributed the largest overall number of advertisements (27,272) followed by retailers (8,731). Most of the producer advertisements were for international brands, part of large global corporations, rather than local/domestic brands. Producers are more likely to promote their brands through video content and emotional appeal – selling glamour, fun or sophistication. Whereas retailers and venues were more likely to use imagery to promote products, prices and “buy now” options to prompt purchases.

While the report has been undertaken in Australia, Rebecca Williams (Alcohol Healthwatch Acting Executive Director) says there is no reason to think it would be any different in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“The issues relating to this exposure are wide ranging and deeply concerning. What we do know gives us grave concerns, and then there is what we don’t know,” says Williams.

As the report authors remind us, young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing has a causal link with young people starting to drink alcohol at a younger age, and drinking at riskier levels. Young people’s exposure to online alcohol marketing is associated with more positive attitudes toward alcohol, intention to drink alcohol, and increased use of alcohol products.

Williams says the collective impact of alcohol marketing and sponsorship works to maintain an environment that normalises alcohol consumption, maintain our heavy drinking culture and makes is difficult for those wishing to quit or cut back on their drinking or seek help.

The report also highlights that we don’t know about the actual exposure to individuals. Williams says this advertising goes directly to the consumers via their mobile phones – targeted through the data gathered by the advertisers or platform owners on individuals – so extremely difficult to monitor. The researchers point out that leaked Meta documents indicate that they have gathered psychological insights on almost 2 million children in Australia and New Zealand to sell targeted advertising.

Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity, it is a harmful and addictive drug yet these advertisers are given free rein to expose children and young people with marketing content that harms them. The need for Government action to put an end to meaningless restrictions and industry self-regulation of alcohol advertising and introduce comprehensive restrictions has never been more pressing.

Report- is available here 

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