Alcohol advertising on social media: Is it okay? Have your say!

The growth of social media, together with increased internet use, provides an ideal environment for the alcohol industry to promote alcohol use.

Alcohol brands are skilled at producing interesting and entertaining content for their followers, with successful content often ‘going viral’. Importantly, the impact of this marketing is further increased by brands encouraging user-generated references and conversations relating to drinking.

Critically, these forms of advertising resonate with and are appealing to young people. Social media provides alcohol marketers with an ideal platform to reach this audience and promote their products.

What is concerning about this marketing behaviour, is that this exposure may lead to the normalisation of alcohol consumption among young people. Alcohol is a major contributing cause of death and hospitalisation for young Australians, with most harms being caused by drinking to intoxication. In addition, a lower age of initiation of alcohol use is associated with a greater likelihood of alcohol problems in adulthood.

I am currently undertaking research into this area, in a study which involves examining young peoples’ exposure to alcohol advertising on social networking sites (SNS) in two very different settings: India and Australia.

In Australia, SNS use is ubiquitous among young people, making it an ideal way of reaching this target group. Although there is a lower prevalence of SNS use in India compared with Australia, the size of its population together with the rapid rise in alcohol consumption means that this is an important market for local and global alcohol brands.

We have just reviewed the content of Facebook posts for the ten leading alcohol brands in India and Australia to assess the content of the posts and strategies used to engage with their audience.

We found that the leading Indian brand had more than seven million fans, while the leading Australian brand had more than 250,000. Through their ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, these people become ‘brand ambassadors’ for the alcohol companies .

There is a small but growing body of research investigating youth engagement with alcohol and reciprocation of alcohol marketing strategies by young people via SNS in Australia. Most of this work examines alcohol-related content posted on Facebook. There is no evidence so far of research examining how alcohol marketing targets young people on YouTube and Twitter, despite the popularity of these SNS and the risk of exposure to alcohol marketing on these social media platforms.

Against this background, my research aims to explore young people’s opinions and experiences about alcohol-related advertising on social media websites.

An online survey has been developed and anyone meeting the following criteria is welcome and encouraged to participate. All information collected will be confidential and anonymous.

  • Are you 13-25 years old?
  • Do you use Facebook, YouTube or Twitter?
  • Have you lived in Australia or India for at least 12 months?

If you say YES to all of the above, please click on the following link(s), depending on your location, and have your say!

Australia or India

You can also Like our survey Facebook page, alcohol advertising and social media, for more details about the project, to post your comments or feedback, and stay up to date with updates.

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Himanshu Gupta

Himanshu Gupta is a PhD Scholar at the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University in Perth. Himanshu is from New Delhi, India and is one of the first recipients of a Curtin University Faculty of Health Sciences International Research Scholarship. Himanshu’s PhD will compare the impact of social media and the use of the internet as a marketing tool on alcohol consumption in India and Australia.

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