Children more aware of alcohol ads

UK: Children as young as 10 are more familiar with some leading alcohol brands and adverts than those for popular foods and snacks, according to a new report by Alcohol Concern.

The report Making an impression describes the findings from a study of more than 400 primary school pupils, which looked at the extent to which they were aware of alcohol branding and advertising. As a result of their findings, Alcohol Concern has called for tighter alcohol advertising regulations.

The study involved pupils aged 10 and 11 being shown the brand names and commercial logos of common alcohol products, as well as images from television alcohol advertisements, alongside those for popular non-alcoholic products such as soft drinks and breakfast cereals. The children were asked to say whether the products were ‘food, ‘soft drink’ or ‘alcoholic drink’. The number of children able to identify alcohol branding and advertising was comparable to, and in some cases, greater than those who recognised brands and advertising for products known to appeal to children, such as ice cream and cake.

The research showed:

• 79% of the children correctly recognised Carlsberg as an alcoholic drink, higher than the percentage recognising the brands Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (74%) and Mr Kipling cakes (41%) as foods

• 79% identified the logo for Smirnoff vodka as an alcoholic product. Awareness of the brand was greater amongst children who said they had tried alcohol compared to those who had not

• Three quarters (75%) of the children correctly associated an image of the fictional characters Brad and Dan from a Fosters television advert with alcohol, higher than those who correctly identified an image from Cadbury’s drumming gorilla advertisement as advertising a food product (42%).

Alcohol Concern has proposed that the ‘Loi Évin’ legislation in force in France since the early 1990s may provide an appropriate model for the UK. French advertising rules place substantial restrictions on broadcast alcohol advertising, as well as banning alcohol industry sponsorship of cultural and sporting events, which often have a particular appeal to young people. Where alcohol advertising is permitted in France, it must be strictly factual and refer only to the characteristics of the products, such as strength, place of origin, ingredients, and method of production, and must include a clear health warning.

Alcohol Concern's Mark Leyshon said: “The drinks industry asserts very strongly that it doesn’t aim its advertising at children. However, this new study provides more evidence that alcohol marketing messages are getting through to young people well before they are legally able to buy alcohol. Research shows that children who are exposed to alcohol advertising and promotion are more likely to start to use alcohol, have positive expectations about alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.

“It’s clear that more effective controls are needed to ensure alcohol marketing messages only reach adult audiences, and are not attractive to children. We need to look at the best practice from other countries that are seeking to tackle alcohol harm, and produce a regulatory framework that’s fit for purpose.”