Thursday, 10 September 2009

Chopping down the grapevine

Plenty has been said this week about the British Medical Association’s call for a total ban on alcohol advertising and there’s not a lot I can add to it. But one point that hasn’t received much attention is the enormous amount of information disseminated about alcoholic drinks that is not paid for directly by the producers. There are societies devoted to the appreciation of beer, wine and spirits, magazines, guide books, newspaper columns and a growing number of internet listings and blogs. In this respect it is totally different from the tobacco market where, as far as I can see, there never has been any significant amount of amateur appreciation.

Most people with a serious interest in alcoholic drinks will probably get much more information from these informal sources than from paid-for advertising. Obviously, though, there is plenty of scope for behind-the-scenes manipulation by drinks producers, which would assume more significance if conventional advertising was outlawed. But do the doctors really want a situation where the Good Beer Guide is a banned publication and I’m committing an offence if I write on this blog that I had a good pint of Robinson’s in the Arden Arms? Regrettably, given the tone of many of their recent pronouncements, I fear the answer is “Yes”.

8 comments:

  1. I’m not agreeing with an advertising ban, so please don’t take that as my perspective, but when I look at the drinks industry I think it shoots itself in the foot. The channel 4 piece on this showed a youtube viral marketing campaign for girl’s drink Lambrini. Girls dancing to music. Inoffensive enough but when they pointed out children had copied it and posted their own versions I couldn’t help but think those in favour of tighter regulation are making a valid point. Are Lambrini targeting 7 year old girls? The idea that the drinks industry do not target underage drinkers is laughable. What is an alcopop for if not a product for people who don’t really like the taste of drink, most of whom are kids. Effective regulation may be the only route for the drinks industry to consider itself socially responsible.

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  2. You're answering a different point from the one I raised there, Cookie. Even if what you're saying is true, it's a case for tighter regulation, whereas a total ban would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And the Advertising Standards Authority have praised the drinks industry for complying with some of the strictest rules on alcohol advertising in the world. You couldn't get away with George the Bear now.

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  3. Actually those of us with a serious interest in tobacco have reviews too. I have tired many of the basis of reviews here
    http://www.tobaccoreviews.com/index.cfm

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  4. Interesting, that - but I've never seen anything remotely similar related to cigarettes.

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  5. Bring back George the Bear! (and how about Hofmeister too for that matter?)

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  6. "I’m committing an offence if I write on this blog that I had a good pint of Robinson’s" - rather far-fetched me thinks. Despite the various cigarette bans there would be nothing to stop someone blogging about the joys of blogging about their favourite smoke.

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  7. George the bear didn't know crap about beer. Who in their right mind would leave the Bavarian forest with its clean air and abundant dirt cheap lager to go and play darts in a tatty, smoky 1970s English pub?

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  8. Paul,

    Maybe it is far-fetched, but there was a time when the idea of a total ban on tobacco advertising was considered far-fetched too.

    And the point is that there is a huge amount of promotion of alcoholic drinks that is not paid for by producers. In this respect alcohol is very different from the tobacco market. If conventional advertising was banned, inevitably producers would seek ways to use these informal channels, and so the banners would start to turn their attention to them.

    And Woolpack Dave, as a commercial alcohol producer, certainly wouldn't be allowed to tell us about his beers on his blog.

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