Action call as social media marketing of alcohol reeling in young audience

  • Post category:World News

ALCOHOL companies are using Twitter to plug their products to a young and potentially underage audience, prompting calls for greater regulation of social media.

From the Herald Sun

The power of “retweets”, and the use of searchable “hashtags” relating to popular sports and social events, were the main tactics used by alcohol companies to promote alcohol to a wider audience.

The research, published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, surveyed the Twitter use by the seven most powerful global alcohol brands – including Corona, Heineken, Smirnoff and Jack Daniels – over six months.

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney’s School of Business found the practices were similar to the past practices of tobacco companies, which associated their brands with positive and popular themes.

Lead researcher Dr Ann Dadich said though the number of Twitter followers for each company was relatively small, with Heineken topping the list with almost 59,000 followers, promotions were often “retweeted” to a much larger secondary audience, increasing the likelihood they would be seen by those aged under 18.

The study highlighted how the beer company, Budweiser, sent 286 tweets to its 15,043 followers, which were then retweeted 13,523 times to other people.

“Twitter is a relatively new platform for companies, and what we found is that it seems to be quite an efficient way to promote their wares,” Dr Dadich said.

“In addition to their direct audience, they’re obviously getting that secondary audience as well.”

Dr Dadich said while alcohol companies’ use of popular hashtags was similar to the past practices of tobacco companies linking their brands with positive themes, public and political pressure could help control its use.

“It might seem an unwieldy beast, the Twittersphere, and it’s easy to put it in the too-hard basket, (but) we need to think how far we’ve come with tobacco,” she said.

Victorian Cancer Council senior policy adviser Brian Vandenberg joined calls for the independent regulation of advertising through Twitter.

“The international evidence about the effects of alcohol marketing shows that the younger people are exposed to it, the more likely they are to start experimenting with alcohol,” Mr Vandenberg said.

“The younger people start drinking, the more likely they are to drink at risky levels, and have alcohol problems later in life, including the cancer risks.”