Where are the Messages Against Alcohol-Fuelled Violence?

With increasing numbers of ‘King hit’ stories making headlines Dr David Waller asks whether alcohol awareness advertising in Australia is powerful enough, and why there are no anti-violence messages.

Another weekend and another cowardly ‘king hit’ has resulted in a young person on life-support. Alcohol-fuelled violence has been a topic of discussion on television news shows and radio talkback, particularly since the death of Thomas Kelly in July 2012.

Several suggestions have been raised including restricting opening hours, lockouts after a certain time, raising the price of alcohol and entry fees to venues, as well as increasing police patrols, higher prison terms, and mandatory sentencing for killer punches.

While there is outrage in the community, the police force, and the media, the politicians are reluctant to make significant changes and little seems to have been done.

Despite being a hot topic of discussion it is noticeable that there is no obvious advertising campaign at the moment that warns people about binge drinking and the dangers of coward punches.

Recent Campaigns



Over the last few years there have been a few social marketing campaigns that have focused on alcohol-related issues, like “If you drink and drive, than you’re a bloody idiot!” and “Don’t turn a night out into a nightmare”.

Two of the more recent campaigns are: the Drinkwise campaign “Drink Cycle” which reflects that drinking habits are passed on to the next generation, which supports the ‘drinking culture’ argument in Australia – although I don’t recall the same level of violence associated with drinking when I was growing up; and the RTA’s Mobile RBT campaign, which basically warns people about getting caught drink driving. Neither are particularly strong messages.

Drink Cycle:

RTA Mobile RBT:

There have also been campaigns targeting teens such as “Drinking. Where are your choices taking you?”, which aims to shame teenagers not to binge drink as there are bad consequences.

Interestingly one of the comments on the Youtube page states:  “looks like a pro-drinking ad to me?”. A few years ago I went to the cinema and a similar ad was shown before the movie and it was cheered by some of the young people in the audience. Unfortunately, the message did not seem to be getting through.

Is shaming young people the best way to send an anti-binge drinking message?

According to a US study in 2010, using shame and guilt to reduce binge drinking may not work as those targeted “already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.”*

So aiming to shame people who may already be feeling ashamed about their behaviour may not be the best message for anti-alcohol ads.

International Examples

In many countries there have been campaigns to reduce drink driving and binge drinking. Below are a few I would like to highlight as they clearly get a message across and do not use personal shame as the motivator to change behaviour.

In New Zealand there have been some excellent campaigns. These include:

“Legend” which uses humour to ‘stop a mate driving drunk’


“Mate” is an emotional ad that cleverly plays on mateship and the results of drink driving

“Let’s Go See Daddy” was an interesting campaign that targets women for the drink driving message. While there have been a few cases of women arrested for high range drink driving with children in the car, this issue is largely ignored in Australia.

Finally, from the UK in 2008 there was a anti-binge drinking campaign aimed at both males and females with the message: “You wouldn’t start a night like this, so why end it that way?”. These ads were also shown in schools to discuss the issue of binge drinking.

Boy’s Night Out:

Girl’s Night Out:

Clearly, Australia seems well behind in sending a message about binge drinking. Also there powerful forces that do not want significant changes in the drinking status quo, or are afraid of offending alcohol brand sponsors. Such as when Cricket Australia refused a slogan from the public health group Healthway: “Alcohol – think again. Alcohol and sport don’t mix.”

With it being such a big social problem at the moment, where are the anti-alcohol fuelled violence ads in Australia?

While this is not a problem that can be solved easily, particularly when there is little political will to do so, and it certainly will not be solved by an advertising campaign, there should be an attempt to get the message out to educate people that alcohol–fuelled violence, and particularly a coward punch, is wrong and can be deadly. Otherwise, the tally of young people on life support each weekend will continue to grow.

Dr David Waller is a senior lecturer in the marketing disciplines group at the University of Technology, Sydney.

*Full study is Agrawal, N., & Duhachek, A. (2010). Emotional compatibility and the effectiveness of antidrinking messages: A defensive processing perspective on shame and guilt. Journal of Marketing Research47(2), 263-273.


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