Thesis statement on fear

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Thesis statement on fear

Despite being largely ineffective at reducing binge-drinking and alcohol-related harm, these multi-million dollar investments surprisingly contain important lessons for public health communications.

Indeed, there is a lack of evidence for their effectiveness. So given marketing campaigns are here to stay, what types of communications are most effective and what positive impact might they have on alcohol use?

I recently investigated these questions in an Honours thesis, focusing on the How To Drink Properly campaign from alcohol-industry funded organisation DrinkWise.

DrinkWise has received significant criticism from the public health sector for this campaign, with critics saying it glorifies drinking as sophisticated and stylish, further encourages young people to drink and Thesis statement on fear be withdrawn.

These criticisms are fully deserved as the campaign problematically constructs binge-drinking as a cultural norm and humorous pastime. However, a crucial point has been missed among this criticism: How To Drink Properly has enjoyed considerable success in audience reach.

DrinkWise reports it has had over two million social media views and the campaign has received a number of advertising awards based on these metrics.

Thesis statement on fear

Given their extensive resources, it is not surprising the alcohol industry have been able to craft a campaign that effectively reaches, and engages, young people. Their work is therefore worthy of attention if we are to improve our communication with this audience about alcohol.

What follows are three important lessons from DrinkWise that can be applied in future campaigns that uphold the interests of public health, rather than those of the alcohol industry. While some argue that scare campaigns often fail as they appear paternalistic, their real failure is that focusing on binge-drinking risks entrenching this behaviour as the perceived social norm in our culture.

Presenting only the negative side of a diverse drinking culture distorts our perceptions of reality. If one is to take a critical view of DrinkWise as simply a mouthpiece of the alcohol industry, then this distortion is precisely what they wish to achieve, as normalising excessive alcohol consumption ensures people continue to buy their product.

Just a cursory glance at the comments on the How To Drink Properly Facebook page indicates this normalisation, and even trivialisation, of binge-drinking in action. The lesson to be learnt here is the portrayal of alcohol norms plays a key role in how a campaign is received.

Rather than normalise binge-drinking or use a negative frame, VicHealth instead focuses on normalising moderate drinking and portraying this as a desirable activity of the majority. The second key lesson to be taken from industry efforts is the potential power of manipulating the symbolic role of alcohol in identity construction.

In this way, DrinkWise reinforces that how you drink is an important element of social status. This means the campaign risks encouraging young people to incorporate alcohol as an essential part of their own identity. However, one can reverse this approach so the symbolic importance of alcohol in identity is reduced — an important lesson for public health campaigns.

There are some promising examples of this in action, such as Hello Sunday Morning which strengthens the appeal of moderation and abstinence in identity by linking these relationships to alcohol to positive images of fitness, the outdoors and wellbeing.

The third lesson drawn from my research is that using social media, something DrinkWise does extensively, is a very effective way to engage with a large audience, particularly of young people.

This scale of engagement cannot be ignored for future health campaigns. Many previous alcohol marketing campaigns have not committed as strongly to social media as DrinkWise, perhaps due to budget constraints, lack of knowledge about emerging digital environments, or concerns over this participatory format allowing online criticism, particularly among risk-averse public sector agencies.

But given that social media increasingly plays a major role in alcohol advertising in Australia and internationallyit is time for public health campaigns to fully embrace social media and the opportunities for dynamic engagement it presents. While each of these three key lessons have come from an unlikely source, in the form of industry-funded advertising, they have important implications for future communications on alcohol.

He is a volunteer consultant on drug policy to Australia 21 and recently completed an internship at the Victorian Institute for Forensic Medicine.

Thesis statement on fear

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