In November 2012, the European Commission published two important reports following presentation of the preliminary findings during the last meeting of the European Alcohol and Health Forum. The documents bring fresh evidence on young people’s exposure to alcohol marketing, a domain that is currently self-regulated by the alcohol industry themselves.
According to the 2010 Eurobarometer study conducted by the European Commission, 77% of respondents, from across the 27 Member States, agreed that alcohol advertising targeting young people should be banned in the EU. Despite this general agreement and push for further actions, the current EU framework encourages self-regulatory schemes which have had a limited effect.
Sponsored by the European Commission, the Rand Europe Report’s focused on three countries; the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. Its main findings (dateing from September 2012) are as follows:
Adolescents in the UK and the Netherlands are more likely than adults to be exposed to alcohol advertising on television
In the UK, young people (10-15 years) are 51% more exposed to ready-mixed drinks which are directly targeted at them
In the Netherlands, people aged 13-19 years old are 63% more exposed to wine advertising and 45% more to spirits
In Germany adolescents had a lower exposure to alcohol adverts than adults
Many TV alcohol adverts contained elements considered to be appealing to young people, such as trendy music, celebrities, and special effects
Alcohol brands have considerable online media presence through marketer generated as well as user generated content
Online content often uses social media where social websites such as You Tube and Twitter have no age restrictions
Online content marketing is designed to encourage users to make links between alcohol brand related content on different websites, using incentives like competitions, giveaways, and comedy videos- the user is then encouraged to interact with the brand for longer
It is possible that social media marketing may have a stronger effect than traditional advertising due to features such as its highly interactive nature and the use of peer influence (users spend far more time browsing and interacting with the brand/ product),
Age verification of pages is highly questionable, as they can easily be overridden.
The role of brand recognition in relation to future behaviour is an area which the report suggested needed further research.
The Report was produced by the National Heart Forum, following a request from the European Commission (Executive Agency for Health and Consumers) for a European Union overview of the market and regulation of alcoholic beverages having a potential particular appeal to minors. As part of its findings, EPHA would like to emphasise the following:
over the years 1995-2007, drinking prevalence in young people remained stable
drinking patterns became more risky, on top of problems already associated with the consumption of alcoholic beverages by young people (interference in brain development, impairment of education, impact on human capital development, higher risk of alcohol dependence later in life for more than a quarter of males aged 15-24)
alcohol-related commercial communications, in general, appeal to minors
social media, as the main marketing channel, is highly attractive to minors and young drinkers,
commercial data should be more easily available. This is far from being the case at the moment.
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