Advertising standards for alcohol in Britain are ‘among the strictest in the world’, according to watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
However, the changing media scene does raise challenges; for example, there are indications that social media is ‘increasingly effective in reaching young people with few effective age restrictions’, according to the British Social Attitudes survey on attitudes to alcohol.
Run every year, the British Social Attitudes survey tracks changes in people’s social, political and moral attitudes. It is used as a gauge of public opinion by Government, academics, and journalists.
Changing media landscape
Current regulations on advertising and sponsorship for alcohol have a ‘particular emphasis across all media on not directing advertising at young people aged under 18, particularly by linking advertising to irresponsible behavior, social success or sexual attractiveness.’
Television advertising rules ban adverts for alcohol from appearing in programs targeted at young people, or programs likely to be attractive to such an audience.
But research suggests children watch post-watershed programs unsupervised, while also being large consumers of social media content.
When it comes to television advertising, public opinion is evenly split. The survey found that 45% of people think alcohol ads should ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ be banned, compared to 44% who think they should not.
Older people are also more likely to support such a ban, backed by 61% of people over 65 years old, compared with only 31% of 18-25 year olds.
“There is stronger support for adverts for alcohol to be banned during programs watched by young people,” says the report. “Around three-quarters (76%) support this, with only 17% being against it.
“Again, older people are more likely to be in favor of a ban than younger people. Over four-fifths (84%) of over 65s support such a ban, compared with two-thirds of 18-25 year olds.”
More than half (55%) think that advertising by alcoholic drinks companies on social media should be banned. In the over 65 group, 68% were in favor, whereas only 38% of 18-25 year olds supported a ban.
The British Medical Association and the Alcohol Health Alliance UK , among others, have called for a ban on sponsorship of sporting and music events by the alcohol industry, arguing that such events are an effective way of targeting young people.
Like TV advertising, public opinion is also evenly split on whether it is acceptable for music and sporting festivals to be sponsored by alcoholic beverage companies.
For both types of event, public opinion was evenly split between those who agree it is OK, those who disagree that it is OK, and those who do not have an opinion on the matter.
There was a slight difference in attitudes between music and sporting sponsorship: 36% thought it was acceptable for alcohol companies to sponsor a music festival compared to 30% who had the same opinion for sporting events.
“Younger people are far more likely to think that it is acceptable for an alcoholic drinks company to sponsor a music event, than older people. Around three-fifths (61%) of 18-25 year olds think this is acceptable, compared with a quarter (25%) of over 65s.
“A similar, though less pronounced pattern is evident in relation to sponsorship of sporting events by alcoholic drinks companies. Around two-fifths (42%) of 18-25 year olds think this is acceptable, compared with around a quarter (26%) of over 65s.”