Booze ads designed to keep you laughing all the way to the bottle shop

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‘Get them laughing to get them drinking’ seems to be the motto of the alcohol industry according to an analysis of alcohol ads displayed across a range of media types in Australia.

The review of over 600 alcohol ads that were the subject of complaints found that humour was the most commonly used vehicle to sell the drinking message.

Lead author Professor Simone Pettigrew, Head of Food Policy at The George Institute for Global Health, said the self-regulatory alcohol advertising codes in Australia were meant to ensure that alcohol promotion meets community standards, especially in relation to minimising the exposure of children and .

“Our analysis of the methods used by the alcohol industry to push its products has really exposed the regulatory loopholes in advertising content and placement that are being exploited to attract a younger audience,” she said.

The analysis published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, which aimed to identify patterns in the use of particular themes in alcohol advertising across different types of media, found:

  • Over half of the ads featured themes that are known to appeal to young people or encourage risky drinking—these themes included humour, value for money, sports, and friendship.
  • Overall, humour was the most common theme (present in 18% of ads), followed by value for money (14%), sports (14%), and bulk purchases (10%).
  • Humour often co-occurred with other themes, including sexual attraction, mateship, manliness, and partying.

“We found TV ads were most likely to contain multiple themes, potentially because video gives marketers more time to be creative. This means we not only need strong regulations of alcohol advertising on TV, but we need controls on other platforms that use video, like social media,” added Prof Pettigrew.

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The opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the FASD Prevention Conversation Project, its stakeholders, or funders.

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