Health experts alarmed over boom in Facebook alcohol ads (En)
Professor Sandra Jones and her team, from the University of Wollongong’s Centre for Health Initiatives, have surveyed 12 major companies, all of which had at least one official page on Facebook and up to 55 unofficial pages.
“[One Facebook post] for example, a picture of an alcohol product: this is a great cure for Mondayitis,” Professor Jones said.
“The official Facebook pages are deemed to be advertising, so they’re subject to the normal codes that govern alcohol advertising in Australia.
“The unofficial pages are not marketing communications, because they’re not the official page of the brand. So they’re not restricted in the same way.
“They’re also accessible to people under 18.”
Professor Jones says Facebook users are taking on the role of advertisers when they repost messages originally written by the alcohol company.
“If they post that message … it’s then visible to the people who are friends with them on Facebook, and so, they really are co-creating those messages,” she said.
“There’s also lots of these websites, or these Facebook pages, where people upload photos of themselves drinking the product, enjoying the product … marketing it.
“So it really is young people marketing to each other as much as the alcohol company marketing to them.”
The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) has recently released a voluntary best practice guide for advertising on social media platforms.
It also includes an extensive list of suggested rules for user-generated content.
ABAC spokeswoman Denita Wawn says she has received very few complaints about alcohol-related posts on social media.
“The industry is very mindful of ensuring that they are complying with ABAC decision, and ensuring that their digital marketing is doing the best thing,” she said.
“If those companies aren’t doing the right thing, then we certainly encourage anyone, including public health researchers, to put in a complaint.”
The University of Queensland’s Dr Nicholas Carah has lodged several complaints with ABAC, specifically relating to user-generated content.
“For example, a brand posts an image of their factory, saying ‘our factory can produce 40,000 bottles of drink an hour’ and consumers would respond and say ‘I could drink 40,000 bottles an hour’,” he said.