Drink makers' responsible ad effectiveness questioned

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Portman group, Alcoholic beverage, Alcohol abuse

A UK-based, industry-led social responsibility program for alcohol
advertising has been praised this week as a major initiative
against irresponsible drinking, despite continued scepticism over
its true effectiveness.

The Portman Group says its code of practice has been named in the '50 Best' campaigns for alcohol harm reduction by the International Harm Reduction Association (IHRA), a development likely to strengthen support for continued industry involvement in ad regulation. However, Andrew McNeill, honorary secretary for the alcohol policy group Eurocare, told BeverageDaily.com that around the world, similar industry-led schemes are still viewed with concern by some health professionals. Ad doubts​ McNeill added that strong doubts remain over whether programs like the Portman Group's code of practice, which limits what imagery and messages can be used in adverts, provides the best solution for discouraging irresponsible drinking. "One difficulty for the industry is that it is hard to persuade health care groups that it will voluntarily work to its own detriment,"​ he said. Ongoing debate ​ McNeill added that debate over the effectiveness of industry led responsible messages and self-regulation was likely to rage on as a key issue of the European Commission's (EC) Alcohol Health Forum. "Certainly in theUK, advertising is a major problem related to alcohol policy,"​ McNeill stated. "Too often, the only issue under discussion is how alcohol content is represented, with more of a focus on volume issues needed."​ According to Eurocare, the rising use of new online media is also contributing to the problem, with the group claiming that a simple on-line search is likely to provide a number of examples of irresponsible drink promotions. "Initiatives like those of the Portman group are doing useful things in the industry,"​ he said. "But one has to ask if they would be doing this without pressure from public health lobbies."Future action ​ Recent findings conducted by ELSA, an EC co-financed project studying alcohol marketing regulation, suggested there was currently contradictory opinion on the effectiveness of industry to government or scientist-led regulation. "The results indicate the need for a more structured and EU-wide monitoring and evaluation approach to alcohol marketing,"​ the report stated. Eurocare itself said it was considering commissioning possible studies into how self-regulation policies currently used in the bloc work, in a bid to better grasp the true effectiveness of such measures. Industry view ​ Despite, these concerns drinks makers still believe that the industry has a vital role in helping to reduce alcohol David Poley, chief executive of the Portman Group, said that the recognition of its code of practice reflected the initiative's success in addressing European concerns over alcohol abuse. "We are mindful of the importance of securing widespread support for our code and independent complaints process from a diverse range of stakeholders," he stated. "This recognition suggests we are striking the right balance by protecting the public from irresponsible marketing while allowing companies reasonable commercial freedoms." The Portman Group ​ The group's code calls on drink makers not to market their products at consumers under 18 years of age, while also encouraging them not to promote rapid or heavy consumption of the product through use of sexual imagery or bravado. Under the guidelines packaging must also not use its alcoholic content as a dominant part of it packaging, or suggest that the product may improve a consumers mental or physical capabilities.

Related topics: Markets

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