The latest DrinkWise ad is a beer commercial, not public health message

michael thorn

The latest responsible drinking campaign from DrinkWise is a cleverly disguised beer ad, not a public health message, argues FARE’s Michael Thorn.

The alcohol industry’s latest beer advertisement masquerading as a public health message was created, according to DrinkWise, ‘to promote a safer healthier drinking culture by keeping the event the focus, not the drinking’.

Perhaps something was lost in translation, although this seems unlikely with one of the country’s smartest ad agencies, Clemenger BBDO on the job. More likely, DrinkWise, an industry financed and controlled body, just couldn’t help themselves.

If the aim was to further reinforce the relationship between the AFL and beer, and to showcase the amber liquid on the AFL’s biggest day of the year, then the advertising creatives have done a terrific job. Credit where credit is due. There is an art to creating a faux public health ad that, far from damaging your bottom line, actually enhances it.

That’s a win for the alcohol industry, but a big loss for the rest of us.

So what is wrong with the DrinkWise advertisement?

The latest campaign:

Let’s return to DrinkWise’s stated intent – ‘to promote a safer healthier drinking culture by keeping the event the focus, not the drinking’.

DrinkWise could have chosen to make a more powerful ad; one less glamorous, and more direct. An opening shot of the sporting action, a pan to the crowds on their feet, and a cut away to the public toilets, a supporter passed out in a stall, covered in his own vomit.

Too heavy handed you say. It’s true, not all successful health campaigns rely on a sledgehammer to get their message across but there’s a big difference between subtle and deliberately vague.

In an interview with Mumbrella DrinkWise marketing manager Simon Strahan said DrinkWise worked with its contributors from the alcohol industry to create and communicate the new initiative.

The ad is in fact endorsed by Carton United Breweries. It’s not surprising then that a glass of beer features in every single frame.

The ad, which is also endorsed by the AFL, features digitally animated AFL players in full flight in the beer glass. Carlton United Breweries have clearly spared no expense on the production. Far from missing the action, the special effects are so good, you are left with the impression that the drinker has the best seat in the house.

For a campaign apparently about keeping the event in focus and not the drinking, the advertisement does a fine job of keeping the spotlight tightly focussed on both.

That’s what a top ad agency and an alcohol industry with deep pockets can achieve. It’s a great advertisement for beer, but it’s absolutely not a health promotion campaign, regardless of how DrinkWise want to spin it.

  • Michael Thorn is CEO of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE)

Updated 4.30pm: DrinkWise and Carlton & United Breweries have this afternoon released statements responding to FARE’s criticism and a new campaign. Click here to see them.


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