Guinness and several other drinks companies would have us BELIEVE that their advertising campaigns and slogans don’t increase alcohol consumption.
At least that’s what they told the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday. Members of the committee yesterday rejected the claims by the drinks industry.
Pat Barry, corporate affairs director with Diageo Ireland, makers of Guinness, told the committee that the alcohol industry recognised alcohol abuse was a serious issue. However, he insisted that advertising only promoted individual brands.
“Our evidence is that the effect of advertising and promotion on overall consumption cannot be easily quantified, because most of it is brand advertising and competitive by nature,” Mr Barry said.
Similar arguments were also put forward by other drinks industry representatives, including Irish Distillers commercial director Kieran Tobin and Heineken Ireland commercial director Patrick Conway.
However, members of the committee strongly rejected the argument and accused the drinks industry of flouting advertising regulations. The Green Party’s John Gormley challenged the drinks industry to be honest about advertising. “Would you have the courage to admit to the committee that this idea that advertising is focused on branding and not consumption is just not the case,” he asked. “Surely you accept that there is a relationship between advertising and abuse. Advertising is there to show that alcohol is cool,” he continued, adding that ads always portrayed young happy people achieving success, or happiness associated with drink. Labour’s Liz McManus also rubbished the industry’s claim.
“The only thing we see is a constant, ongoing bombardment of the message that young people should drink more,” she said, adding that it was clear to her mind that the marketing of many products was designed to target young people.
Deputy McManus also said that alcohol consumption had, in the last 10 years, increased by 41% and that the average person was now consuming the equivalent of 11 litres of pure alcohol annually compared to a European average of just over nine litres.
Fine Gael’s Olivia Mitchell said that almost every single ad appeared to be aimed at young people and called for a total ban on alcohol advertising.
Mr Barry denied the industry deliberately targeted young people. “We don’t target them but, of course, they are exposed to ads, but they are also exposed to car ads and they don’t go out and jump into a car the next morning.”