Reverse engineering a ‘responsible drinking’ campaign to assess strategic intent

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Abstract

Background and aims

The alcohol industry produces ‘responsible drinking’ advertising campaigns. There is concern that these may promote drinking while persuading governments and the general public that the industry is acting responsibly. This paper examined young people's thoughts and feelings in response to one of these campaigns in Australia.

Design

A qualitative analysis of introspection data provided by young drinkers after exposure to a responsible drinking advertisement produced by DrinkWise called ‘How to Drink Properly’.

Setting

Perth, Western Australia.

Participants

Forty-eight 18–21-year-old drinkers.

Measurements

The qualitative data were imported into NVivo10 and coded according to the various stages of advertising effects frameworks. A thematic analysis approach was used to identify patterns in the data relating to (i) perceptions of the source and purpose of the advertisement and (ii) any resulting attitudinal or behavioural outcomes.

Findings

Despite the sample comprising mainly high-risk drinkers, participants were generally unable to relate to the heavy drinkers depicted in the DrinkWise advertisement. This disassociation resulted in a perceived lack of need to modify their own drinking behaviours. Instead, the study participants found the advertisement to be entertaining and supportive of existing social norms relating to heavy drinking among members of this age group.

Conclusions

The ‘How to Drink Properly’ advertisement by Drinkwise in Australia may reinforce existing drinking attitudes and behaviours among young drinkers.

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