Banning booze ads will just make marketers more creative

As the calls for stricter regulation of alcohol advertising to protect children heat up Mike O’Rourke argues changes to advertising will do nothing without changing behaviour at home.

Hi, my name is Mike O’Rourke and I ask my kids to pass me beers. I drink alcoholic beverages at home, and yes, I have also been guilty of asking my kids to go to the fridge for me. And when we have guests I angst about what wine we’ll serve as much what food we’ll eat. And the rhetorical discussions with my son over whether I should get 2 bags of ice or just the one (the answer’s always two).

Like most Australian families, alcohol plays a large part in my home life.



The Australian National Preventive Health Agency has urged a crackdown on alcohol advertising in sport and on television, cinemas and billboards in order to reduce the harmful drinking culture in Australia. Following the release of a national report, the ANPHA was tasked with assessing the current system of regulation around alcohol marketing and advertising.

The report by the ANPHA argues that alcohol advertising and marketing is fuelling a dangerous and unhealthy culture of drinking that is reaching children and adolescents. In addition, Australia’s current system for protecting them from this advertising is inadequate.

As a result, the nation’s health watchdog has called for alcohol advertising on pay TV and in cinemas to be prohibited before 8:30pm. The agency has also floated the idea that billboard advertising of alcohol should be banned within 500m of a school.

Carlton United Breweries argues that the biggest influencer for children is not a logo on a football shirt, but the behaviour of their parents and that’s why education is critical. Children’s exposure and attitudes towards alcohol are more likely to be developed in the home by watching their parents rather than through any advertising.

I whole-heartedly agree. I need to change my ways, and so do many other Australian families.  I’m sure these regulations won’t achieve much more than making a few people feel better about themselves. But I’ve gotta say, I am sick of watching the footy with my kids through a mine-field of drinking and gambling promotions.

And if alcohol advertising is to be banned within 500m of schools, how about any product with a high sugar content as well? Personally, that’s what I’m more concerned about.

The reality is, legislation will inevitably come and you can’t blame the alcohol companies for fighting every step of the way. If blanket sponsorships and bulk media buys within sporting broadcasts are taken away, every ad agency is just going to devise new and innovative ways of getting their message through to large and targeted audiences. Any ad agency worth their salt will already be in their boardroom with a solution and would have seen these changes coming for a while.

Alcohol has been a part of Australian media for as long as advertising has been in this country and brands aren’t going to stop looking for ways to communicate and connect with audiences. Whether it’s new formatting or new messaging, don’t think that you’ve seen the last of these brands on outdoors and on our screens.

Mike O’Rourke is the Creative Partner at Sydney creative agency Bloke.


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