‘Brutally Honest’ Adverts Target Binge Drinkers
‘BRUTALLY HONEST’ ADVERTS TARGET BINGE DRINKERS
APRIL 2 2008
The Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) today launched new hard-hitting advertisements showing the harmful consequences of binge drinking.
The television commercials show graphic examples of excessive drinking leading to harm, with three realistic characters eventually making poor and dangerous choices.
“These commercials are unpleasant but so are the consequences of binge drinking,” ALAC CEO Gerard Vaughan says. “The ads mirror what is happening, unfortunately, every week around this country.
“It is time to be brutally honest about some of the worst effects of intoxication.”
He says help is offered to those concerned about their drinking, or the drinking of others.
“The commercials feature an 0800 number (freephone 0800 787 797) and website www.hadenough.org.nz. The 0800 number directs callers to the Alcohol Drug Helpline, while the campaign website has information about binge drinking, where to go for help, being a responsible host, managing your drinking, and campaign materials.
Mr Vaughan says the three television commercials focus on transformation – when good times turn bad.
“Each follows one person through from when they start drinking to when they finish. During this time, there is a ‘tipping point’ when harmless behaviour become harmful – to themselves and others. We see how the situation changes as the individual makes poor choices as a result of the alcohol consumed.
“Despite the success of previous advertising, the message has yet to get through to many people about the cost, not only to the country, but personal and family costs to health and happiness, from excessive drinking,” Mr Vaughan says. “Previous advertising has focused on ‘softer’ consequences such as embarrassment and regret. The new campaign focuses on more serious stark realities.”
The new television advertisements, which are backed by press advertisements, are part of ALAC’s ongoing programme designed to change New Zealand’s risky drinking culture.
Mr Vaughan says while the advertising is the most public face of the programme, it is backed by wide-ranging initiatives in the areas of policy, enforcement, and community action.
Alcohol harm is thought to cost the country somewhere between $1 billion and $4 billion a year. Some 70 percent of accident and emergency hospital admissions and 75 to 90 percent of weekend crime is alcohol-related.
Research carried out in 2007 [Research New Zealand. ALAC Alcohol Monitor – Adults and Youth 2006-07 Drinking Behaviours Report.] found that 12 percent of adults surveyed were non-drinkers, 62 percent were moderate drinkers, and around 25 percent were binge drinkers. “ALAC is committed to strengthening its links to communities which are most affected by alcohol. For example, Maori, young people between the ages of 12 and 24 and Pacific Island groups. These links and other less high-profile and local programmes will augment the hard-hitting nationwide media campaign,” Mr Vaughan says.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON ALAC CAMPAIGN
2 APRIL 2008
The Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand’s (ALAC’s) social marketing programme to change New Zealand’s drinking culture started in March 2004 with the first round of paid advertising beginning in March 2005.
The programme is a long-term strategy with the ultimate goal of changing New Zealand’s binge drinking culture. ALAC wants to increase the number of drinkers who have thought about the harmful effects of getting drunk, who agree they are more likely to cause serious harm to themselves and others if they get drunk and who agree it is never OK to get drunk.
The new advertising will build on successes of the first stage of the programme, continuing the theme “It’s not the drinking, it’s how we’re drinking”. This phrase has entered the Kiwi vernacular with 96 percent recall. Forty five percent of binge drinkers have thought about cutting back, up from 28 percent. [Figures from ALAC Culture Change Monitor, “Progress to June 2007”, Research NZ.]
A personalised message is presented – showing actual consequences of binge drinking and inviting people to reflect on messages from their own perspective.
The campaign will feature in various media including on television where people are followed along a drinking pathway: Danny (team drinker), Lisa (confidence boosting) and Uncle Mark (show off). There is a ‘tipping point’ when drinking becomes harmful. Each individual makes poor choices due to the amount of alcohol consumed.
Both an 0800 number (freephone 0800 787 797) and campaign website: www.hadenough.org.nz will provide advice and help.
Reasons for the campaign are compelling:
- ALAC estimates alcohol harm costs New Zealand between $1 billion and $4 billion a year.
- It costs the public health sector $655 million, $240 million in crime and related costs, $200 million in social welfare and $330 in other government spending.
- In lost productivity excess drinking costs about $1.17 billion a year.
- Some 70 percent of accident and emergency hospital admissions are alcohol-related.
- Seventy-five to 90 percent of weekend crime is alcohol-related.
- Research carried out in 2007 found that 12 percent of adults surveyed were non-drinkers, 62 percent were moderate drinkers, and around 25 percent were binge drinkers.
QUESTION AND ANSWERS - DRINKING CULTURE ADVERTISING
APRIL 2 2008
What is the new advertising all about?
ALAC’s drinking culture campaign is part of a programme of work designed to change the prevailing New Zealand drinking culture which is tolerant of drunkenness, binge-drinking and intoxication.
The latest commercials aim to get New Zealanders thinking about the personal costs of binge drinking – to them, and their friends and family. We want to increase the number of drinkers who will think about the effects of getting drunk and who will agree it is never OK to get drunk. It is hoped people will reflect on the messages from their own perspective and experiences and consider changing harmful drinking habits. ALAC’s testing of the commercials on target audiences indicates this should happen.
Why are we doing it?
New Zealand has a problem with alcohol. Even though New Zealand’s overall per capita consumption of alcohol is within World Health Organisation Guidelines, the levels of “acute” alcohol-related problems (that is, problems arising from single drinking occasions) remain stubbornly high, indeed higher than those incurred from dependent or prolonged drinking (“chronic” harm). So something has to be done to address the harm that happens from these single occasions. ALAC research has shown us that drinking to get drunk is an accepted norm in New Zealand and that norm, together with the fact that many New Zealanders often do get drunk, is resulting in acute harms.
ALAC believes that we need significant resources in “supply control” (eg. policy and enforcement of laws) and “problem limitation” (eg. early intervention and treatment) initiatives to achieve a degree of change, but investment in those areas alone is not sufficient to achieve extensive and sustainable change and a consequent reduction in acute harm. So this advertising programme will contribute by challenging the norms underlying New Zealanders’ attitudes and behaviour around drunkenness and help people make better choices about the way they drink.
Our aim is to convince New Zealanders that binge drinking and intoxication are socially unacceptable and to enable people to drink in a way that reduces the risk of harm. It is not the drinking that is the problem, it’s how we’re drinking.
Why are these advertisements so much harder-hitting than previous advertising?
ALAC makes no excuses for the hard-hitting nature of the campaign. It is a case of being honest, admitting a serious problem and addressing it head-on. These advertisements do not exaggerate what is happening every week around New Zealand. They mirror some serious effects of alcohol misuse and aim to discourage people from drinking in a way that harms them and others.
What help is offered to people who want to make a change to their drinking behaviour?
The commercials feature an 0800 number (0800 787 797) and the address for the new campaign website www.hadenough.org.nz. The 0800 number directs callers to the Alcohol Drug Helpline, while the campaign website has information about binge drinking, where to go for help, being a responsible host, managing your drinking, and campaign materials.
In addition, campaign public relations will include a focus on providing ‘exit ramp’ strategies to reduce the risk of progressing to binge drinking.
Can people’s drinking behaviour be changed by an advertising campaign?
We know that advertising alone will not change behaviour. What ALAC has developed is a comprehensive multi-faceted programme, one component of which is marketing the need to change how we drink. No-one is suggesting marketing on its own can produce behaviour change; what we are saying is marketing in conjunction with a whole range of other strategies can influence behaviour.
It is not about simply delivering a social message by mass media. It is about delivering an integrated programme that includes policy, education, service provision and enforcement to support the change that the marketing messages are designed to stimulate. These things will together, help bring behavioural change.
What other strategies are there aside from the advertising?
ALAC’s programme to increase moderation and reduce harm relies heavily on inter-related strands of activity across the three key areas of “Supply Control”, “Problem Limitation” and “Demand Reduction” that are fundamental to change in the alcohol context.
The Supply Control strategies focus on achieving enforcement of and compliance with the Sale of Liquor Act, controlled purchase operations, parents’ programmes, policy measures designed to reduce overall consumption such as using tax/price, controlling outlet density, purchase age and regulating alcohol advertising.
Problem Limitation strategies focus on the group of dependent and hazardous drinkers who need support and assistance to reduce or stop their drinking. These strategies include early intervention programmes, treatment, supporting the Alcohol Helpline and other services.
Demand Reduction strategies focus on achieving culture change outcomes by persuading communities and individuals to make better choices about their consumption. It is in this area that ALAC identified a gap. And it is this area that the advertising activity falls into.
Is it too ambitious to try to change New Zealanders’ drinking habits?
The campaign is targeted at problems caused by excessive drinking, not at drinking per se. Campaign advertisements are not aimed at drinkers who use alcohol only in moderation.
However it is time to become more mature as a nation about the degree of binge drinking and the effects from it. When there are figures, for example, showing some 70 percent of accident and emergency hospital admissions and 75 to 90 percent of weekend crime is alcohol-related; perhaps any glamorising of binge drinking and intoxication should stop.
What does the campaign consists of?
The campaign includes television commercials and advertising in print media. Some radio advertising will also run at the same time, although this is not directly related to the campaign. A campaign website and 0800 number will be available for people wanting help. The website called Had Enough? will include various resources for people concerned about their own drinking or someone else’s.
Who are the advertisements targeted at?
The general adult population. However, a “one size fits all” approach to advertising is hard to achieve when different adults relate to different sorts of potential harms, reasons to drink or reasons not to drink. Using our research, we therefore identified three groups: parents with children under 15; men under 35; and women under 35 years old; and have specific advertising for each of those groups.
The reason for targeting adults not just young people is that research shows the drinking culture is pervasive across all ages and demographics. Young people are unlikely to change if the culture they learn to drink in accepts and aspires to drunkenness. Adults need to look at themselves before pointing the finger at young people.
When do we expect results?
We have spent centuries as a society creating a culture where we drink the way we do. We won’t be able to turn that around overnight. The message against drink driving took 10 years to get through. We anticipate an equal if not greater challenge lies ahead.
We are monitoring the advertising and will look for both message uptake and attitudinal and behavioural change.
What is the harm of binge drinking?
There are a range of harms, from injury to crime, to domestic violence, to neglecting family responsibilities, to lost productivity at work, to hospital admissions, to memory loss and embarrassment, and more.
So what is a binge? How much is too much?
We are nowhere near telling people precisely what behaviour we expect. We are first of all focusing on getting people to make the connection between drunkenness and harm, and to think about their own drinking behaviour. However, people do ask us what a binge is and how much is too much. Our statistics and most media activity refers to “bingeing” so it is understandable that people want to know what that means.
This is a notoriously difficult question to answer, primarily because it will be different for different people and may even vary for one person from one day to the next, and the time taken to consume the alcohol, and the circumstances.
Bingeing is about people drinking to a point of drunkenness and intoxication. It is where they say and do things that they wouldn’t normally. It is where they put themselves and others at risk of harm. Most people know how much is too much and when they tip beyond a sociable state.
Nevertheless, some definition is required for research purposes. Last year, in our research “The Way We Drink”, we combined both attitude and behaviour to categorise people as binge drinkers. So we did not simply categorise people as binge drinkers on the basis of quantity consumed.
For the behavioural part of the research, we used seven “glasses*” to help categorise binge drinkers, but this was combined with attitudes to drunkenness. The seven glasses was used because that is the quantity that people told us they considered was a heavy session when we surveyed them.
* “Glasses” proved to be on average 1.6 times greater than a standard drink.
Who is the advertising agency behind this campaign?
Wellington-based advertising agency Clemenger BBDO.
How much is the campaign costing?
The advertising campaign is costing around $3 million per year, but the other complementary strategies that make up the overall drinking culture change programme take up a large part of ALAC’s $12.5 million budget.
The cost of the campaign can be compared to the cost of harm caused by alcohol – estimated to be between $1 billion and $4 billion a year. There are personal, family and community costs as well that are not included in this figure. It will be money well spent if it reduces, even by a small amount, the effects of binge drinking.
In June 2004, Cabinet approved an increase to the ALAC levy (a “tied tax” on all alcohol products, through which ALAC’s activities are funded) to enable ALAC to fully develop this drinking culture change programme.
Have any other countries taken this approach?
No, this programme to change the drinking culture is leading-edge work and as such has aroused a lot of interest elsewhere in the world where they are grappling with the same issues.
What results have you had so far?
Research undertaken between July and
September 2007 [Research New Zealand. ALAC Alcohol Monitor
– Adults & Youth. July-September 2007 Quarterly Report ]
- almost all adults are aware of the discussion about New Zealand’s drinking culture. Three-quarters of adults had unprompted awareness of ALAC’s drinking culture campaign, and 99 percent were aware of the campaign when prompted
- one-third of all adults who were aware of any drinking habits-related advertising said they had discussed this advertising with other people
- one quarter of adults who said they were now drinking less indicated that their decision to drink less had been influenced in some way by the alcohol-related publicity they had seen. This represents 10 percent of all drinkers
- there are high levels of awareness of the campaign message “It’s not the drinking, it’s how we are drinking”, with one third of all adults having unprompted awareness of this message and 97 percent being aware of it when prompted
- well over half of adult New Zealanders (65 percent) were thinking about the harms to themselves and others that resulted from their drinking
- almost three-quarters of adult New Zealanders agreed they were more likely to cause serious harm to themselves or others when they got drunk.