EUCAM - European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing
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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

Want to contribute to ‘Talking Alcohol Advertising’? If you are working in the field of alcohol marketing, wheter as a scientist, policy maker, health care worker or otherwise and want to share your latest results, campaigns or discuss a subject that is currently hotly debated in your country, please contact us at We would love to hear from you.

Sweden & the UK: Transnationally regulating alcohol marketing?

20 December 2012

Sweden & the UK: Transnationally regulating alcohol marketing?

In this installment of our guest written blog ‘Talking Alcohol Advertising’ Ella Sjödin of Sweden’s IOGT-NTO, shares her thoughts on the current status of the prohibition on televised alcohol marketing in Sweden.

“Even though there is a clear prohibition against alcohol advertising on radio and TV in Sweden I daily see alcohol advertising on several Swedish TV channels. By broadcasting from the UK, TV channels, so far, have managed to circumvent Swedish legislation. In 2011 we filed a complaint against these broadcasts to the Swedish Broadcasting Authority, by referring to the EU's Audiovisual Media Services Directive. The authority has now required that the UK stops alcohol advertising in broadcasts to Sweden. It's a real progress for us to hear that the Swedish authorities have taken a stand against the alcohol marketing and decided to proceed with our case. I also think it's important to note that there is a political consensus and strong public support for the prohibition against alcohol marketing on TV. A poll in 2011 showed that 80 % of the population supports the prohibition and that 78 % thinks that it's wrong that the TV channels circumvent Swedish law. I think that you can also note the resistance towards alcohol marketing from the regulators. The Swedish government earlier this year appointed a commission to further look into how to regulate and monitor the alcohol marketing on TV and digital media. The study is expected to be ready in the end of March 2013.

Coming back to our complaint, I have to say that it is exciting to test the possibility for Sweden to cooperate with the United Kingdom through the so-called principle of the country of reception, introduced in the new Audiovisual Media Services Directive. This principle means in this case that Swedish law applies even when an advert is broadcasted from another country but entirely or mainly targets Sweden and a Swedish audience. Just as in our case, where the broadcasts on Swedish channels only are shown in Sweden for a Swedish audience.

Now we wait to see whether the UK will chose the line of the Swedish Broadcasting Authority and stop alcohol advertising on Swedish TV or if the case will continue to the EU level.”

Ella Sjödin
European officer at IOGT-NTO. Follow Ella on Twitter!

Want to contribute to ‘Talking Alcohol Advertising’? If you are working in the field of alcohol marketing, wheter as a scientist, policy maker, health care worker or otherwise and want to share your latest results, campaigns or discuss a subject that is currently hotly debated in your country, please contact us at We would love to hear from you.

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