The advertising of alcohol products on social media platforms need new regulations, say researchers, as the current ones are not strong enough.
Reports in the ABC, Professor Sandra Jones, a director at the Australian Catholic University Centre for Health and Social Research, said alcohol ads were “out of control”.
“Not just on social media but in all forms of media. Young people especially are exposed to a barrage of advertising,” she reportedly said, with one issue being it was the industry itself that decides on the advertising code.
“Complaints are heard against that code by a body that is set up and funded by the industry but includes a range of different representatives.” Jones added regulating should be a role for the government.
The current alcohol advertising is regulated by a code called the ABAC Scheme (Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme) a quasi-regulated scheme where the “guidelines for marketing have been negotiated with the government”.
The ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code currently states anything deemed a ‘marketing communication’ to include the likes of social media.
Newly appointed independent chair of the ABAC Scheme, the Hon Alan Ferguson, said he believed the industry is able to regulate itself.
“The evaluation of advertising is important to the industry because quite frankly the advertising that takes place needs to be something that’s acceptable in today’s society,” the ABC reported him saying.
“I’m quite sure they’ll be open to looking into any new medium that might be used in a greater way in the past but I’m not aware that they’ve made any moves yet.”
In April this year the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) found social media was now a massive player for promoting alcohol, “giving the industry the ability to reach millions of consumers and aggressively target young drinkers”, particularly when it comes to combining that with sporting culture.
Similarly, a study was released in April last year, also by FARE, showed by the end of 2012 the top 20 alcohol brands in Australia had posted more than 4500 pieces of content on Facebook, which was subsequently engaged with more than 2.3 million times.
At the time, author of the report, Dr Nicholas Carah from the University of Queensland, said: “The alcohol industry has developed an extensive, real-time culturally embedded mode of marketing on Facebook that continuously seeks engagement from fans.”
He added alcohol brand activity on Facebook should be considered in the regulations.