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Study slams alcohol brands for Instagram promotions in Oz

A third of Australia’s top Instagram ‘influencers’ who have promoted alcohol brands failed to disclose their commercial partnerships, according to a new study.

VicHealth has accused the alcohol industry of using “sneaky tactics” to promote its products online

The research from Australian health promotion foundation VicHealth looked into the top 70 Instagram ‘influencers’ in the country and their alcohol-related posts.

Of the 70 ‘influencers’, three-quarters included alcoholic drinks in their posts, however only a quarter of this group “fully disclosed when they had been paid by alcohol brands”.

The research also found that the alcohol industry would often partner with other brands such as activewear or festivals, which VicHealth said would allow the sector to promote alcohol through ‘influencers’ without having to disclose their backing.

VicHealth also claimed that the industry is using social media to promote its alcohol products as “cool and glamorous to an impressionable audience”.
To address the issue, VicHealth has launched Top Spin, a competition across Victoria to encourage young people to “call out the sneaky tactics” used by alcohol brands.

VicHealth acting CEO Dr Lyn Roberts said: “Our research shows the alcohol industry is employing tactics straight out of the playbook of big tobacco, using high-profile influencers to make their products appear glamorous and sophisticated to young people.

“What’s most concerning is that influencers and brands can get away with not disclosing paid content, making it really hard for young people to discern when they’re being sold an ad.

“We also know that young people who like or follow alcohol brands on social media are twice as likely to drink at risky levels than those who don’t.

“Top Spin is about turning the tables and encouraging young people to question the spin peddled to them by the industry.”

Roberts added that the alcohol industry has “failed to take responsibility for the massive harm” that booze can have on young people.

She said: “We know that 40% of Victorians aged 18-34 drink at risky levels at least monthly. That might boost alcohol industry profits, but it’s bad news for the rest of us.
“Concerningly, the number of young Victorians who end up in hospital due to alcohol has increased by nearly a quarter (24%) since 2009.
“Alcohol brands spend millions each year advertising their products to impressionable young people and it works – for every advertising dollar spent, young people drink 3% more alcohol.
“We want to turn this around and empower young people to voice their concerns and spark a broader conversation about reducing alcohol product harm in our communities.”

In December last year, a complaint was filed against Diageo, alleging more than 1,700 alcohol ads for Cîroc vodka were posted on Instagram by ‘influencers’ who failed to openly disclose their connection to the brand.

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