EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing
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Sunny Beach, Denmark?

11 May 2014

Sunny Beach, Denmark?

How is the Danish alcohol marketing situation currently? Last spring the main concern was a new Danish high school tradition of going alcohol-bananas in Prague during the winter break. Around that time a thought entered my mind: What if Prague and Sunny Beach are merely the tip of the iceberg? What if similar scenarios are going on in Denmark every weekend reducing binge-travel to a symptom of a much greater domestic disease?

Later incidents seemed to confirm this. In the summer of 2013 the media reported about 5.000 – 6.000 young people partying in Dyrehaven, a nature reserve just outside Copenhagen. The young people were mostly high school pupils from the whole Zealand area invited through Facebook.

In a Danish context the size of the party was remarkable large. Moreover the get-together evolved into a party completely out of control. The youngsters were very drunk and left the precious nature vandalized. At one point it was necessary to put 40 youngsters in recovery position due to drunkenness.

My first thought was that Dyrehaven was a single incident organized by the young people themselves. My second thought was that I should look into the matter. I then realized that Dyrehaven was in fact one out of a large number of nationwide so-called 16+ parties. In a period of three months I found 34 places (mainly discotheques and clubs) all offering alcohol to the 16+ segment. This is a bit astonishing bearing in mind that it in Denmark it is not allowed to serve alcohol to minors on premises. Moreover the parties at the 34 places were recurring events.

They varied in size, from a couple of hundred guests to 80.000 persons invited on Facebook. One of the clubs in Copenhagen once had 150 youth education centers on their guest list and eight bars. Some of the clubs and discos also admit 15 years old children and primary school pupils. The events are organized by professionals. In non-populous areas shuttles transport the minors from various cities to the party. These are of course party buses.

The involvement of the minors in the marketing of 16+ parties is extensive. In many cases the minor audience is asked to invite their peers to the 16+ parties on Facebook - typically in reward for booze. Some 16+ places employ youngsters to promote the parties among their friends and at school. They can then call themselves ambassadors. At some parties good looking persons from the target group work as event girls (and boys). The work involves sampling of drinks and creating a sexual atmosphere. Photos of naked and undressed girls from the 16+ age group in semi-pornographic positions are common in the advertising.

The main focus though, is on alcohol beginning with advertising on Facebook. Beer and alcopops are available at the 16+ parties. And so are spirits. In 75 percent of the 34 parties hard liquor was mentioned on the bar menu. So, the focus is on heavy drinking. Alcohol is almost always sold with a discount. Or it is handed out for free during a period of one or two hours in the beginning of the evening. The staff seem keen to push the youngster’s alcohol intake. For instance at some places alcohol is served in buckets, as body tequilas or beer bongs are provided. In a number of cases professional promoters enter the party with their products. Their job is to sample, and in some cases they pour alcohol directly into the mouth of the youngsters.

We know little of the organizers in general. Some of them we know because they expose themselves in the social media. These are the organizers from the Copenhagen clubs. They are typically young, popular men in their early twenties with many followers on Facebook. They promote parties and clubs on their personal Facebook profile. The young organizers actively take part in the parties, share photos and comments on Facebook and communicate with organizers from other clubs with whom they also hang out. They encourage extensive drinking in word as well as in deed. They are often drunk, but never too drunk to promote certain alcohol brands, for instance Belverde Vodka.

According to the Danish Law of Marketing it is not legal to mention alcohol, or to picture alcohol in ads addressed to minors. Nor is it allowed to make references to alcohol.

Nevertheless, while the marketing of Prague and Sunny Beach youth travel has been restricted by the Consumer Ombudsman, discotheques and clubs in our own backyard are still promoting 16+ parties with alcohol.

Another question occurs in my mind: Is Denmark (being very liberal) the only country to experience 16+ parties with alcohol?

Ina Johansen
Project Worker at Alcohol & Society Denmark
May 11th, 2014

Please find attached below Alcohol & Society Denmark's report on the 16+ parties (in Danish)

16rapport_digital.pdf16rapport_digital.pdf (5,33 MB)

Dear politicians: Now is the time to act.

23 October 2013

Dear politicians: Now is the time to act.

Oktoberfest. That’s something you might associate with Germany, Bayern and snow topped mountains, but perhaps not so much with tropical Madagascar. While logic dictates this assumption is right, Oktoberfest is live and happening all over Madagascar this month. I don’t know who’s behind the festivities in Germany, but in our case the party is 100% invented, organized and promoted by Madagascar’s most popular beer brand, THB.

Because apparently not enough Malagasy where drinking beer, THB in 2005 started ‘celebrating’ their beer through the Oktoberfest. Normally this was done in the form of a three day giant stadium event with music, festivities, games and lots of beer. However, this year THB experiences competition from 33 eager politicians, campaigning for the presidential elections on October 25th. As politicians have taken over TV, radio and the newspapers with their campaigns we have seen a significant drop in alcohol advertisements in these media. However, THB has found a way to still get their message through, despite the bombardment of political messages, by blanketing our country with many smaller events in various places, to make sure no one escapes their marketing.

Last week we had someone from EUCAM over to monitor alcohol marketing in our capital Antananarivo. When we first shook hands, he was already dumb founded by the amount of alcohol billboards and murals he had seen on the way from the airport. As the week went on and we systematically mapped various areas in the city, he appeared to be totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of alcohol ads. And I have to say, walking through my city and registering every alcohol ad we came across, really opened my eyes. I already knew there were large amounts of alcohol advertisements in Antananarivo, but now I found that in many parts of the city you can’t walk 10 meters without being hit in the head by THB, Skol, Queens, Castel or Dzama. We also came across a Jumbo supermarket, which for the Oktoberfest seemed to be taken over by THB. Literally the whole store front and parking lot where covered in THB colours, flags, banners, giant sized bottles, dancing clowns, animation girls and TV’s showing THB commercials.

The enormous amount of alcohol advertising in Madagascar is especially problematic because we identified many outdoor ads in close proximity to schools and kindergartens. We also found that schools are often surrounded by bars where, according to the kids we interviewed, it was effortless to buy alcohol as a minor. The retailers would probably make a remark about their age, but ultimately would sell them whatever they want.

I am well aware that Madagascar culture and history are filled with problematic and harmful drinking behaviour. In 1828, Radama I, the oldest son of our first king allegedly died as a result of a delirium tremens from alcohol abuse. After which, his father king Andrianampoinimerina was the instigator of the “Code of 305 Articles” [Dimy venty sy telonjato], promulgated by the Queen Ranavalona II in 1881, which banned the sale, production and consumption of alcohol. At this time, to illustrate the devastating effects of alcohol, King Andrianampoinimerina had the people gathered around a special demonstration: a strong zebu was fed of alcohol. The animal was then sliced so that people can found that his bowels were burned by alcohol. From there come the famous Malagasy sayings “There’s nothing stronger than a zebu but when it is fed of alcohol, his liver burns” [Tsy misy mafy ohatran’ny omby fa rehefa misotro toaka may ny atiny] and “One will see the bottom (what is hidden behind the apparent reality) after slicing” [“Eo am-pandrasana mahita ny atiny”].

Nowadays though, it seems this lesson has been forgotten and we are collectively losing our people to alcohol. Do we really want to expose our children to marketing messages that say that it’s normal (or preferable even) to consume alcohol every day of the week (in 65 Cl bottles)? Do we want our children to think that drinking alcohol provides an escape from the problems of everyday life? That drinking is the Malagasy thing to do?

The Blue Cross Madagascar will shortly present a policy report to the inter-ministerial committee on alcohol abuse. Among the main points will be the advice to regulate and actually enforce the regulations on alcohol marketing and selling to minors. To the candidates of the current presidential election I want to say that it’s not too late. King Andrianampoinimerina lost his son before he enacted a law to address the problem of alcohol abuse. Dear candidates, this is your chance to enact laws before a whole generation of young Malagasy drown in alcohol.

National Coordinator of Alcohol Policy Program, Blue Cross Madagascar.
Antananarivo, Madagascar
October 23rd, 2013

New year’s resolution…

2 January 2013

New year’s resolution…

On the first October of 2012 I attended a meeting held at the Eurocare office in Brussels. This was a meeting organized by EUCAM with the purpose of developing a collective strategy on alcohol marketing, to be shared and implemented by NGOs and health organizations through Europe. The meeting was attended by people from Eurocare, IOGT-NTO, EPHA (the European Public Health Alliance), APYN (the Alcohol Policy Youth Network), Active Europe and of course EUCAM.

Besides discussing some of the plans for 2013 of each organization (top secret stuff, of course…), we all agreed on striving for the mutual goal of a total alcohol marketing ban. In practice this means that we will work to achieve an alcohol advertising ban as well as a ban on alcohol sponsoring. In our definition of a marketing ban, we do not include a ban on price marketing or on Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns. We refer to what the public defines as alcohol marketing (in order to follow the rules of communication: we want to be short and clear). Another kind of wording for our desire can be: a ban for commercial communication on alcohol. In fact we want the same for alcohol as we have already for tobacco.

We all agreed that self-regulation of alcohol marketing is not functioning and that we do not support the idea that self-regulation has to be strengthened. Therefore we decided not to spend any more time in discussions about the strengthening of self-regulation. Self-regulation is an instrument of the industry to prevent statutory regulations. We will strive for improving statutory regulations (effective volume restrictions) because only these take us forward on the road to a complete ban. In other words: to a necessary protection of young people from the harmful impact of alcohol marketing and sponsoring.

If the European Commission or the industry wants to install an independent board/ commission/comity for the monitoring of self-regulation or for taking decisions about violations of the self-regulation codes, the organizations present at the meeting decided not to take part in this kind of initiatives, nor to promote these. We will simply say: “This is none of our business and we won’t spend time on it.”

Everyone agreed that it will be crucial to do things in the right order. This means it’s primarily important to put the focus on national policy change instead of European policy change. If more and more countries decide to go for a ban or for specific statutory regulations, than finally Europe has to follow. And it would seem there is currently a momentum for this.

We also came to the conclusion that we are currently missing critical data on alcohol marketing investments and data about exposure of young people to alcohol marketing. The industry is aware of the value of this data and for that reason it recently blocked the delivery of exposure data in Ireland. We will try to raise this important issue on European Commission level.

It was a pleasant and very productive meeting, not only did we learn of each other’s goals and plans but more importantly we started to band together. Even with all the public support that we already experience, health organizations such as our own are relatively small and feeble when compared to the multinational organizations we find ourselves fighting against. That’s why it’s so important for us to form a united front, put our differences behind us and communicate consistently across the board. If we can do this, than 2013 will be the year that we stand together and become greater than the sum of our parts. Now, how’s that for a new year’s resolution?

Wim van Dalen, president of EUCAM
President of the European Center for Monitoring Alcohol Monitoring
Utrecht, the Netherlands,
December 27th 2012

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