May 6, 2020

Concerning alcohol advertising strategies

Wine bottles shot from above

As governments internationally are forced to adopt difficult policies to contain outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19), we’re also seeing examples of problematic alcohol advertising that we should be especially mindful of in the current crisis.

Promoting alcohol as a coping mechanism

Millions of Australians are struggling with the impacts of coronavirus and the ‘new normal’ of life defined by social distancing and hand sanitiser.

This can include working and schoolings kids from home, job loss, financial insecurity, increased pressure on relationships, and very limited social and recreational opportunities.

Although alcohol will not fix any of these issues - and can make difficult emotions and situations even harder to manage - we’re seeing some advertisements present alcohol as a way to ‘survive’ the crisis.

Alcohol is not a good ‘solution’ to boredom, loneliness, stress and anxiety.

Alcohol can intensify feelings of anxiety and depression over time, and there could be serious long-term health impacts for Australians who may start using alcohol as a coping mechanism during the crisis and keep using it as one into the future.

Normalising risky levels of alcohol consumption

When some of the advertisements or memes shared by alcohol corporations ‘joke’ about a high volume of alcohol consumption being relatable, it risks normalising drinking a high volume of alcohol as a common reaction to the pandemic.

Yet for many Australians, experiencing dependence on alcohol, alcohol-related violence (including family violence), or fighting alcohol-related cancer and other disease, it is no joke – and being bombarded with memes and advertisements making it out to be funny can make a difficult situation feel even worse.

Framing alcohol as being ‘there for you’

There are also some advertisements and memes shared by alcohol corporations that frame alcohol as a friend – one who is always there for you, that you can ‘turn to’, and that you can have a ‘relationship with’ to get you through the crisis.

Some alcohol corporations have been framing themselves as positively supporting consumers with sales on alcohol, ‘iso 6-packs’ and ‘bringing joy’ with alcohol deliveries to help people survive the pandemic.

We need to remember that alcohol is not a person, and it is not a friend.

Drinking alcohol to cope is not a healthy choice and drinking at risky levels isn’t funny. Now is an important time to be mindful of the impact these advertising strategies might have on Australians through this crisis – including ourselves.

Information and support

Call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 for free and confidential advice, information and counselling about alcohol and other drugs

Have you seen an alcohol advertisement that you think is problematic? Get in touch with the Alcohol Advertising Review Board and Ad Standards about it.

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