May 24, 2011

The Other Side of the Coin: Anti-Alcohol Campaigns

I know I promised a post on Saturday, but... like I said, bad month. The Curator will resume posting on his usual 2-3 times/week schedule after the holiday. But I wanted to make sure I got up at least one post this week. 

This one will be a little different. it's a look at three campaigns dedicated to getting people to drink less.  Since I am (not shockingly) opposed to some of the neo-Prohibitionist antics of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other groups of their ilk, I have mixed feelings about them, but I am also very much against drunk driving and excessive drinking (who isn't?) and, more importantly, the design is interesting. All three came to my attention via

First, let's look at the least subtle campaign, by MADD and the Montreal-based firm Über: 

Like I said, no points for subtlety. This is mostly what you see if you tune into anti-alcohol campaigns: lots of fear, oriented around a pun that is equal parts smugness and superiority. I have not seen numbers to suggest this works at all, and frankly I'm not surprised. Talking down to one's audience is rarely an effective way of doing anything, let alone changing behavior. Particularly stupid is the strategy; no one decides to drive drunk because he thinks it's safe (and, as we can see from these ads, clearly only men drive drunk). He drives drunk because he does not believe he is drunk. So a fear-based ad campaign positioned above the person and before the event seems very unlikely to make a difference. The photography is only okay.

With that as a baseline, let's look at a Corona campaign that, "Instead of focusing on the physical, it focuses on the emotional as stated in their slogan, ‘Drink responsibly. Or you’ll regret what you said last night.’"

From TrendHunter:
This phrase is cleverly illustrated by three regretful statements involving confessions of ballet lessons, love life slips and awkward work moments. The Corona Beer 2011 ad campaign was created by JWT in Madrid, Spain. It was art directed by Juan García-Escudero and copy written by Jaime Chávarri. Unfortunately, the talented photographer behind the Corona Beer 2011 ad campaign is currently unknown.
This has a little more cleverness and a lot more design prowess. The images are well-constructed and designed, with the idea of us dragging around the dumb things we've said when we had too many. And that feeling is so close to universal that I suspect this might actually affect more people than the MADD campaign above. All of us are familiar with the feeling of having said something we regret, and most of us are familiar with having alcohol involved in that feeling. If these ads were placed correctly (on coasters, say, or in the restroom at the bar) I could easily see someone seeing it, thinking, and deciding to have one or two fewer beers. I don't think it would do anything to a person who is already en route to getting bombed, but it could possibly make a social drinker have three beers instead of four. Again, though, only men do this.

Okay, onto the weirdest of the campaigns, from the Akzia Student Journal and M&C Saatchi, which uses a fear of gender identity to make its point:

As TrendHunter tells us:

...This publication has put out the message that consuming overindulgent quantities of booze can meddle with your hormones and more. One of the print ads features a man, posing nude as if in a prepartum portrait with a pregnant stomach. To elaborate on the idea pictured, text beneath the photo reads that “Excessive consumption of beer affects masculinity and leads to belly growth, enlarged lacteal glands and decreased potency.” Furthermore, a butch-looking woman is featured on the second print, reading that “Excessive consumption of beer affects feminity. It leads to an increase in facial hair and body odor because of an increase in male hormones.”
I am not sure if this is offensive, effective, neither or both. Certainly, the idea of losing one's gender identity is a potent one, and the images are suitably discomforting. And I like that there is some acknowledgement that women drink. But there is the whole "woman + beer = man" thing, that just seems to be off, like the worst thing a woman could do would be more "butch." Granted, these are not for US market, so there may be cultural differences, but at best they represent an antiquated vision of gender identity. Still, if one is trying to effect not just a change in a subject's behavior tonight, but an overall lifestyle choice, something like this is probably a better strategy, because it presents a change in one's entire life and person, rather than just the short-term consequences of one poor decision. One can always believe that tonight will not be the night she says something dumb, or that he will wreck his car driving home drunk, but if one accepts the message that drinking too much will mess with one's wo/manhood, that is not something from which one can run forever.

On the other hand, we've known for a long time our Western diets will kill us, and we haven't changed that because we love chicken wings and cake and we'll always start next month. This is aimed at students, so the hope, I assume is to get to them when they are old enough to make a change but have not settled into a lifestyle yet. Still, when I was a college student, I wasn't making great decisions with the rest of my life in mind.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as an effective anti-drinking campaign? What would it look like?


  1. Wow these are awful. I really find it interesting that 87% of these are centered around men drinking, and the other 13% is a woman acting like a man, or, like you said: woman + beer = man. I also find it interesting that gender is still such an issue. If you're not comfortable with your sexuality, I assume these would hit some sort of nerve and cause you to stop and think...about what though? Not drinking (more) or watching what you say and/or do or society will judge you even more than it already does?

    I like all of your points and enjoy even more that you look at both sides of the story (well, where the ads may or may not be coming from and where they may or may not be taken into consideration). I know that as a woman who drinks beer, I couldn't care less what other people, men or women, think of me when they see me sipping on a pint at the bar or tasting rows of beer at a festival. I'm not drinking to impress anyone, and I know when to stop, but that came with experience more than anything. No ad was going to get me to stop drinking more as a younger, more...impressionable youth. And on that note, I'm 23, hardly what one might consider a sagacious object of maturity, I still have my moments of weakness, I just know to hand my keys over before I have that last one.

  2. An effective anti-drinking campaign? Maybe next they can try an effective anti-glacier campaign. (h/t Kurt Vonnegut, natch.)

    I am someone who really doesn't ever drink, not for any huge reason other than I've just never been a fan of alcohol. I make exceptions for religious ceremonies - or if The Pour Curator happens to be in town and we go somewhere and he says to me, "Actually, you might like this."

    I really sat and thought about your question about an effective anti-drinking campaign, and the conclusion I came to was... no. I don't think that some kind of advertising campaign will cause anyone to drink more responsibly.

    Funny, I still remember those anti-smoking ads that Brooke Shields did when I was a kid. Are they the reason I'm not a smoker? Kinda doubt it. Ditto with the "This is Your Brain on Drugs" campaign. I'm just not sure that a "responsible drinking" campaign is much different.