Research suggests online alcohol marketing leads to young people drinking more, more often and at an earlier age
30 September 2013
A newly published review of currently available scientific literature shows exposure to online alcohol marketing leads to advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption. This literature review is one of the main program points in the online conference on digital alcohol marketing, organized by EUCAM (The European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing) on the 31st of October.
Gap in the literature
It has been well established by various studies that exposure to alcohol advertising affects the drinking behaviour of young people. Empirical- and review studies supporting this have been published in peer reviewed journals [1-4] and by the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission . However, there appears to be a gap in the literature and common knowledge when it comes to the specific measured effects of online alcohol marketing. To fill this gap, EUCAM initiated a non-systematic literature review which found 10 studies that in one way or another measured the effects of exposure to digital or online alcohol marketing on the drinking behaviour of young people.
Two studies which did not specifically identify online alcohol marketing exposure, found positive associations with drinking, despite their broad scope [6, 7].
Three studies, in which online alcohol marketing is part of a cumulative exposure measure, show a positive association between exposure to alcohol marketing and young people’s drinking behaviour [8-10].
Three studies directly measured exposure to online alcohol marketing and showed strong positive associations [11-13].
In these last three studies, effects ranged from advancing the onset of alcohol consumption, increasing the amount consumed, as well as the frequency of consumption [11-13]. One study even suggests an association with binge drinking .
One study found that the effect of online alcohol advertising was almost twice as strong as that of traditional marketing .
It’s not just commercial advertising messages: In two studies a strong association has been found between young people explicitly presenting their selves as drinkers (assuming an ‘alcohol identity’) on social network sites and harmful drinking behaviour [14, 15].
This last association exemplifies the problem of the lines being blurred between commercial advertising messages and user generated content on social media sites [14, 15].
Online Conference on Digital Alcohol Marketing
These findings, presented in an accessible 2.5 page fact sheet, show that while more research on this subject needs to be done, there is already a robust base of evidence that suggests the harmfulness of exposure to alcohol marketing by young people. These harmful effects are particularly problematic how the internet (and specifically social media) is currently largely unregulated (or self-regulated by the alcohol and advertising industries). This essentially means that alcohol producers and advertisers at this moment cannot be stopped marketing to young people.
Consequently, there is a need for up-to-date evidence based policy measures. To ring the alarm bell, close the gap in the literature and publicize much needed policy recommendations, EUCAM is dedicating its first online conference on the subject of digital alcohol marketing. The conference will result in the publication of the EUCAM Manifesto on Digital Alcohol Marketing. NGOs, policy officials and scientists are welcome to participate on Thursday the 31st of October at 14:00 (CET). Sign up here>>
1. Avalon de Bruijn, Researcher Alcohol Marketing Europe at EUCAM
The Effects of Online Marketing on Youth: An evidence-based overview
In this presentation De Bruijn provides an overview of the current state of scientific knowledge on the effects of online marketing on children. She also presents findings of her own recent research on the effects of exposure to online alcohol marketing on the drinking behaviour of over 9.000 high school students in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland.
2. Prof. Gerard Hastings, Director of the Institute for Social Marketing and the Centre for Tobacco Control Research & Mark Grindle, Researcher at the Institute for Social Marketing at Stirling University and the Open University
Alcohol Marketing Online and through Social Media: How does it work?
In this presentation Hastings and Grindle describe the tactics and methods of alcohol marketers online and through social media. This presentation is based on own research as well as recent descriptive studies of the methods of online alcohol marketers.
3. Monika Kosinska, Secretary General of the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) in Brussels
Why self-regulation is not working in the field of online alcohol marketing
In this presentation Kosinska illustrates why we can't rely on the alcohol and advertising industries to regulate themselves in order to protect our children against exposure to digital alcohol marketing. Kosinska will also refer to experiences and the current status of the regulation of online tobacco marketing.
4. Gerard van der Waal, Communication Officer at EUCAM
Current regulations of online alcohol marketing: Comparing self-regulation codes with statutory regulations on alcohol marketing
Van der Waal will present an overview of the most important European self-regulation codes, compare these with current statutory regulations on online alcohol marketing and discuss the strong and weak points of each.
5. Ismo Tuominen, Ministerial Councillor for the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finland
Strengthening Online Alcohol Advertising Regulations: A case study from Finland
Mr. Tuominen is partly responsible for formulating Finland's new law which (i.a.) effectively bans alcohol marketing on social network sites. In this presentation he will describe the new legal restrictions as well as explain the thinking behind it.
6. Wim van Dalen, president of EUCAM
Conclusions & Presentation of the EUCAM Manifesto on Digital Alcohol Marketing
Van Dalen will close the conference by taking the conclusions of the earlier presentations and summarising these into a manifesto on digital alcohol marketing, including brand new policy recommendations.
The conference will be hosted and moderated by Tiziana Codenotti President of EUROCARE, the European Alcohol Policy Alliance.
The EUCAM fact sheet ‘The effects of online marketing on drinking behaviours of young people’ can be downloaded here. Find more practical information about attending the conference on www.EUCAM.info/onlineconference, or sign up for the online conference here>>
For questions or comments about the EUCAM fact sheet, or the upcoming online conference on digital alcohol marketing, please contact Gerard van der Waal (email@example.com).
1. McClure, A.C., et al., Alcohol Marketing Receptivity, Marketing-Specific Cognitions, and Underage Binge Drinking. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2013. 37: p. E404-E413.
2. Grenard, J.L., C.W. Dent, and A.W. Stacy, Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems. Pediatrics, 2013.
3. Smith, L.A. and D.R. Foxcroft, The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health, 2009. 9: p. 51.
4. Siegel, M., et al., Brand-Specific Consumption of Alcohol Among Underage Youth in the United States. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2013: p. n/a-n/a.
5. Science Group of the European Alcohol and Health Forum. Does marketing communication impact on the volume and patterns of consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially by young people? - a review of longitudinal studies. 2009.
6. Epstein, J.A., Adolescent computer use and alcohol use: What are the role of quantity and content of computer use? Addictive Behaviors, 2011. 36(5): p. 520-522.
7. NCASA, National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI: Teens and Parents, 2011, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: New York.
8. Pinsky, I., et al., Exposure of adolescents and young adults to alcohol advertising in Brazil. Journal of Public Affairs, 2010. 10(1-2): p. 50-58.
9. Gordon, R., Harris, F., Assessing the culmulative impact of alcohol marketing on young people's drinking: cross sectional data findings. not published yet, 2009.
10. Tucker, J.S., J.N.V. Miles, and E.J. D'Amico, Cross-Lagged Associations Between Substance Use-Related Media Exposure and Alcohol Use During Middle School. The Journal of adolescent health : official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 2013. 53(4): p. 460-464.
11. Lin, E.-Y., et al., Engagement with alcohol marketing and early brand allegiance in relation to early years of drinking. Addiction Research and Theory, 2012. 20(4): p. 329-338.
12. Jones, S.C. and C.A. Magee, Exposure to Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption among Australian Adolescents. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2011. 46(5): p. 630-637.
13. Bruijn de, A., Exposure to online alcohol advertising and adolescents’ binge drinking: A cross-sectional study in four European countries, in Alcohol Policy in Europe: Evidence from AMPHORA, P. Anderson, Braddick, F., Reynolds J., Gual, A., Editor 2012, The AMPHORA Project: Barcelona. p. 56-64.
14. Ridout, B., A. Campbell, and L. Ellis, ‘Off your Face(book)’: Alcohol in online social identity construction and its relation to problem drinking in university students. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2012. 31(1): p. 20-26
15. Moreno M., C.D.A., Egan K. G., Brockman L. N., Becker T., Associations between displayed alcohol references on facebook and problem drinking among college students. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 2012. 166(2): p. 157-163.
effects-digital-marketing_1.pdf (256 kB)
New Fact Sheet: Testing content restrictions in self-regulation codes
10 March 2013
In 2010, the five NGOs participating in the AMMIE project selected 84 alcohol marketing practices that appeared to be in violation of existing national rules for self-regulation. We filed complaints against these practices at the national Alcohol Advertising Committees, who are to decide whether these complaints are to be upheld (or not).
The NGOs proceeded to ask five Youth Rating Panels from the participating countries to give their opinions on a selection of the complaints. In Denmark, 40 youngsters participated, in Germany 30, and in the Netherlands 37. In Italy, 57 young people were included in the first round, whereas the last group consisted of only 22 young people. In Bulgaria, 29 people took part in the first round, and in the fourth round 21 youngsters took part. Altogether, 199 young people between 12-18 years of age participated in one or more rounds. Their answers were compared to the decisions of the Advertising Code Committees.
complaints-fact-sheet-versie-2013-2b.pdf (1,50 MB)
Trendreport: Super strong beers in Europe
19 December 2012
Beers with a high alcohol content are prevalent throughout Europe. They are also easily accessible, relatively inexpensive and often packaged in ‘super-sized’ containers (up to bottles of three litres).
This unprecedented research was conducted by EUCAM, through volunteers in 16 European countries. The volunteers took note of all the beers sold in two supermarkets and two specialized stores in their hometown. Their target was to look for beers with an alcohol content exceeding 7%.
This resulted in the identification of 734 strong beers, which were evaluated on the following characteristics: brand, type, alcohol percentage, volume of the container, and the price at which the product was sold.
Some key points of the research:
-The highest amounts of alcohol content on average were found in Austria (10.03%), Belgium (9.53%), and France (9.33%).
- Alarmingly Austria and Belgium are also two countries where beer with high levels of alcohol content is available relatively inexpensively (average per unit price of €1.90 and €2.02, respectively).
-On average the least expensive strong beers were found in Poland (€0.86), closely followed by the Czech Republic (€0.94).
-Price per unit of ‘strong’ beer was found to be highest in state monopolies, cheaper in liquor stores, and cheapest in supermarkets.
-Most beverages were contained in 330ml bottles or 500ml cans, but larger containers were also found, most notably the three litre bottles of cider with an alcohol content of 7.3-7.5% from the United Kingdom (containing a staggering 22.5 Standard Alcohol Units).
-Arguably, looking at the packaging, the size, and the price per unit of the containers a few outliers of the 734 identified products are overtly aimed at contributing to quick and inexpensive consumption which may consequently lead to drunkenness.
This research does not make any scientifically based claim, but was purely intended as a first explorative and non-representative overview of strong beers in Europe. Because we have no data on the level of consumption and the type of consumers, we cannot make grounded conclusions concerning a propensity of beer with high levels of alcohol content to contribute to irresponsible alcohol consumption.
The report also comes with three clear policy recommendations intended to cut down on the irresponsible usage of beers with high alcohol contents:
1. Irresponsible drinking behaviour can be curbed by raising the prices of beer with high levels of alcohol content.
2. Binge drinking might be deterred by reducing the size of containers.
3. Lessen the availability, by raising the barrier for people to buy beer with a high level of alcohol content. Simply said, get strong beers out of the supermarkets.
trend-report-strong-beers-final-december-2012.pdf (1,32 MB)