Targeted Advertising: "A Combination Between MySpace and High School Musical"
In documents obtained by the Commons Health Select Committee, the body that publishes the British Medical Journal, top-secret memos from major alcohol producers aspire to commercial campaigns that many deem inappropriate. That's because the campaigns were described as a "combination between MySpace and High School Musical," two things that are most common among those who are still too young to drink and should not be targeted by advertisers.
The goal of the campaigns, as can be seen in the memos passed around by marketing and advertising executives at these companies, was to create a culture of "cool" around some of today's biggest brand. By grooming kids to drink at an early age, and informing them about which brands are best for young people like themselves, companies were setting themselves up for an unquestionably strong revenue stream in years to come. The campaigns in question began airing just over a half decade ago, in 2007, and nefarious tactics continue today.
Pushing the Line on the Voluntary Control Measures, or a Gross Misrepresentation?
Officials from the medical journal point to the youth-targeted advertising as proof that the UK's voluntary self-regulation of alcohol promotions just isn't working. Those voluntary guidelines place advertising to minors off limits in virtually all cases, largely because the impressionable age group should not be driven to conclusions before they are able to make an independent decision about the merits of alcohol and their preferences within the industry.
While British members of the press, and some British officials, are worried that voluntary self-regulation might be a lost cause, alcohol industry executives are fight back with tough words of their own. Diageo GB's managing director, Simon Litherland, released a statement calling the journal's findings a "gross misrepresentation" of industry policy, and one that had done unneeded damage to the image of several brands in Britain.
A Tough Battle Ahead for Officials, Executives, and Parents
Despite the war of words between officials and company executives, the real merits of self-regulation lie with parents in the UK. Though advertising might be increasingly youth-targeted, effective parents have always educated their children about the dangers and merits of alcohol in a wide variety of settings.
Moving forward, it's likely that youth-targeted advertising won't go away anytime in the near future. Parents, then, should be keenly aware that their teenagers are being targeted by these advertisers, and they should make it a key point to address the lure of alcohol and its potential pitfalls among the youngest adults in British society.
Jennie is a drug counselor, author and blogger residing in Florida. To learn more about the dangers of alcohol and drug addiction, or to seek help for someone you love struggling with addiction, visit delrayrecoverycenter.com.