Jun
19

Know your limits

posted on June 19th 2008 in Youth Participation with 1 Comments

Know_your_limits1
That’s the name of the latest Home Office campaign to reduce binge drinking amongst 18 – 24 year olds,
but it could equally apply to advertising.  Looking at the murkiness beyond the glare of the window, the agency really should have employed a specialist window dresser.

A pair of TV adverts launched on Tuesday night during Big Brother appropriately depicting a young man and woman getting ready for a night out by spreading puke in hair, ripping clothes, banging heads and kicking hi-fis. Not a badly executed ad, but I question the efficacy of using TV advertising to influence behaviour of people whilst they are under the influence of something else. 

I was told that online was going to be a big part of the campaign.  So far all I can see is the "viral" video which has been viewed plenty of times but has attracted some criticism in comments.  A website for the campaign and any sign of the posters promised is lacking.

I can’t see this working.

In Sweden they took a different approach. They realised that telling young what not to do whilst drunk was not going to work.  They accepted that for most people drinking alcohol was fun but that drinking too much wasn’t.  So they produced guides to getting drunk, but not too drunk.  Cards were handed out telling people how to identify signs of getting to the optimum levels of inebriation and gave advice on how to stay at that level rather than going beyond into oblivion and beyond.  What a superb idea.  Acknowledging the truth and giving the young people the choice to take the advice in a mature way.

A 15 year old told me recently that he’d once gone out and downed a bottle of vodka , but it left him so
sick that he doesn’t drink that much vodka any more. He found his limit.  He didn’t need someone telling him what it was.  Perhaps if it had been Absolut it would’ve had one of the Swedish guides attached and saved him a hangover from hell.

In the traditional of Ideal Government, wouldn’t it be better if (WIBBI) the money was spent enforcing the licensing laws which forbid a pub selling drink to someone who is already intoxicated. [Licensing Act 2003, Section 141]  Local authorities are responsible for issuing licences to serve alcohol but as far as I am aware they are loath to withdraw
licences from big chains because they cannot afford the legal fees when the big chains appeal.  If a community wants to stop anti-social behaviour caused by a bar then the council should have the confidence
and ability to remove the licence.

I asked Lydia Fitzpatrick from the Home Office team just how many licences had been revoked for serving intoxicated customers in the past year.  Perhaps she could also clarify how many fines were issued under Section 141 of the 2003 Act and what percentage that represents of estimated incidents of binge drinking.  She promised to get back to me and since online is going to be an important part of the campaign I guess she’ll pick up on this post and give us an answer in the
comments section.

PS I know the picture is so dark you can’t see the display.  I said to the team behind not to worry because at night, when drinkers are around, it would be more visible.  I was told that at night it would shut down because they didn’t want to get in drinker’s faces???  But the good news is that the displays will be made available to Local Authorities if they want to use them.

UPDATE:  There is a microsite at: http://wouldyou.direct.gov.uk.  No interaction, nothing downloadable, not contacts information, but there is a site.

currently there's 1 comment(s)

  • Andrew Brown

    commented on 21st June 2008 at 8:19 am

    Interesting stuff Shane. I have seen the Know Your Limits stuff on youtube and LastFM and guess that the Home Office are targeting the online content on sites that cater for the age group they’re interested in for this campaign.
    The question of whether public health campaigns directly affect behaviour is one that I take a professional interest in, and the evidence is a bit thin. By which I mean we don’t research that as much as you’d have thought.
    Certainly we know that advertising can influence behaviour around alcohol (http://tinyurl.com/6c7khe), but whether the sort of tactics that the Home Office are using are effective we’ll have to wait and see. For myself I don’t know if they are able to counter the sort of alcohol culture that is described in this presentation – http://tinyurl.com/6cfrb5
    Luckily public health campaigns are the tip of quite a big iceberg of government thinking and action around alcohol – some of which encompasses the enforcement activity you call for. However, as the government point out in their updated alcohol strategy (http://tinyurl.com/28nc4y) and Youth Alcohol Action Plan (http://tinyurl.com/5rahmr) the aim is to change society’s attitude to alcohol which is a pretty long term ambition if tobacco is anything to go by.
    Anyway, I’m sure you’re right about giving confidence to local authorities about removing licenses – having been through the early skirmishes over extending the licenses in the ward I used to represent I’ve seen the tactics that some pub chains employ – and think that local policing should reflect the concerns we have about anti-social behaviour caused by alcohol.
    But we also need to have a better understanding of what will work in social marketing, and how to make sure it fits with the aspirations that we have a society.

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