Digital alcohol marketing increasingly targets young people, says WHO






Alcohol is increasingly being marketed across borders, with young people and heavy drinkers being particularly targeted, according to a recent report by the United Nations health agency.

The study shows how the digital revolution in marketing and promotion is being used to advertise alcohol across national borders and, in many cases, regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment. reports UNB.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption is causally linked to a range of health problems, ranging from alcohol dependence and other mental and behavioral disorders to major non-communicable diseases such as such as cirrhosis of the liver, cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries and deaths resulting from violence and road accidents.

About 3 million people die each year worldwide from the harmful use of alcohol – one every 10 seconds – or almost 5% of all deaths.

Young people account for a disproportionate number of these alcohol-related deaths, with 13.5% of all deaths among people aged 20-39 being alcohol-related.

“Alcohol robs young people, their families and societies of their life and potential,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Yet, despite the obvious health risks, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than for other psychoactive products. Better, well-enforced and more consistent regulation of the marketing of alcohol would allow both save and improve the lives of young people around the world.”

The WHO report highlights how recent changes in alcohol marketing have created new opportunities to reach audiences.

The collection and analysis of data on user habits and preferences by global Internet providers has enabled alcohol marketers to target messages to specific groups across national borders.

The study found that targeted social media advertising is particularly effective and enhanced by influencers and post sharing.

A data source cited in the report calculated that more than 70% of media spend by top US-based alcohol marketers in 2019 came from promotions, product placements and online network ads. social.

“The growing importance of digital media means that the marketing of alcohol has become increasingly cross-border,” said Dag Rekve of the WHO’s Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviors Unit.

“This makes it more difficult for countries that regulate alcohol marketing to effectively control it in their jurisdictions. Greater collaboration between countries in this area is needed.”

Alcohol companies also sponsor major sporting events globally, regionally and nationally, which the report says can also significantly increase brand awareness among new audiences.

They also partner with sports leagues and clubs to reach viewers and potential consumers in different parts of the world.

Other opportunities include sponsorship of competitive gaming events or product placement in movies and series airing on international subscription channels.

The report “Reducing the harm of alcohol – by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion” also examines how specific audiences are targeted, with particular attention to children and adolescents, women and heavy drinkers.

The WHO said studies have shown that starting to drink alcohol at a young age is an indicator of hazardous drinking in young adults and beyond.

Marketers also particularly target regions of the world with young and growing populations, such as Africa and Latin America.

While men consume three-quarters of the alcohol consumed globally, the lower rate among women also presents an opportunity for growth. According to the report, alcohol marketers often depict women’s drinking as a symbol of empowerment and equality.

“People who are dependent on alcohol frequently report a stronger urge to drink alcohol when confronted with alcohol-related cues, but they rarely have an effective way to avoid being exposed to the content. advertising or promotion,” the WHO said.

The report recommends that restrictions or complete bans on the marketing of alcohol, including its cross-border aspects, be integrated into public health strategies. It also calls for greater collaboration between countries.

The WHO said that although many governments have put in place some form of restrictions on the marketing of alcohol, these tend to be relatively weak.

A 2018 study by the UN agency found that while most countries have some form of regulation for the marketing of alcohol in traditional media, nearly half have no applicable regulation. to the Internet and social media.

Cathy W. Howerton