Study: Booze Brands Are Breaking Advertising Codes

Young woman drinking shots of tequila at bar counter
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Liquor brands in Australia have been accused of breaking the voluntary Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code by using actors under the age of 25 in their campaigns.

A study released on Friday led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW has found teens are likely to be influenced by the “young and attractive” actors in ads.

According to the code, actors in alcohol commercials must be over the age of 25 and must be depicted as adults.

The study, which surveyed 351 ‘heavy drinking’ teenagers – those who consume more than 11 standard drinks in a session – found that more than half of the participants thought actors always or usually appeared to be under 25 years of age.

As well as this, 68 participants were shown six current print and online advertisements for different types of drinks including beer, cider, wine, whiskey and sweet liqueur.

Of the 68, 94 per cent thought the character in a liqueur advertisement was under 25 years old and almost 30 per cent believed the ads were targeting people under the age of 18.

In terms of beverages, Apple cider and liqueur advertisements were rated most often as “very” or “quite” appealing.

According to the study, “The liqueur ad was associated with attractiveness, partying, and being fashionable: ‘If you are a girl, it will make you look hot like her. If you are a man, you can buy these drinks for girls who look like her’ (Female, 19), ‘You look fun; you are up for a good night’ (Male, 17), ‘It’ll taste good, it looks pretty and it’s cool, yeah’(Female, 18).”

Speaking on the results, NDRI Research Fellow and co-author of the study Tina Lam said the results were concerning.

“The majority of the 351 participants reported regular exposure to alcohol advertising, particularly on television, outdoor billboards and at festivals,” Lam said.

“The young people’s responses support a large body of research indicating that young people regularly perceive messages that alcohol enhances mood or confers some social benefit. The perceptions of these young people are also in line with public health expert assessments that the voluntary industry-managed codes are frequently breached,” she added.

The study follows a hypothetical study from the US last year which analysed the potential financial impact of a plain packaging policy on food and beverage brands in four categories: alcohol, confectionery, savoury snacks, and sugary drinks, like that of cigarettes locally.

It found eight major brand-owning companies are predicted to lose a total of $US187 billion should plain packaging be mandated for other FMCG products, with alcohol and sugary drinks brands most vulnerable.

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