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Putting alcohol signage and advertising into perspective - NZ Alcohol Beverages Council

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Calls to ban all alcohol signage and advertising on council-controlled land across Tamaki Makaurau ignores Auckland Council’s own advice that rejected the proposal. (1)

"We already know that alcohol signage does not increase harmful drinking and a Council report agrees with us stating ‘evidence that advertising outside off-licenced outlets contributes to alcohol-related harm is weak to non-existent’ ", says Bridget MacDonald, executive director of the NZ Alcohol Beverages Council (NZABC).

"However, this has not stopped anti-alcohol interests from running a campaign to support calls for a ban on signage and advertising," says Bridget.

"The attempt to rally Aucklanders against small locally-owned liquor retail businesses and local community supermarkets, which are legitimate ratepaying businesses, is ludicrous," says Bridget.

"Alcohol advertising and marketing are already highly regulated by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and the Advertising Standards Authority’s Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. Globally, virtually all research has found that alcohol marketing has no or very modest effects on total alcohol consumption.

"In addition, the Foundation for Advertising Research has shown that while advertising spend has increased over the past decade, the total alcohol consumption has actually fallen in New Zealand, as backed by official health statistics," says Bridget. (2) 

"We are therefore somewhat bemused to see academics and activists making statements that "big, bold, bright" colours used by off-licence businesses are offensive and "a blight on society"- particularly given brands and businesses across Aotearoa also use "big, bold, bright" colours. Their suggestion that off-licence premises should be painted in regulated neutral tones is nonsensical," says Bridget.

"The fact is, the amount of alcohol being consumed in New Zealand is falling and has been for decades. Official data tells us that, on a per capita basis, we’re drinking about 25% less today than we did in the ’70s and ’80s. As the amount we drink decreases, the role of advertising is increasingly about getting the consumer to choose one brand over another. And that’s all.

"The pathway to reducing alcohol-related harm isn’t achieved by banning advertising or signage or the colour of a building; it’s by taking a purposeful, targeted pragmatic approach using education and well-evidenced social change programmes and support," Bridget says.

[1: An Auckland Council's Signage Bylaw 2015 Review, Detailed Options Report 2021 (April 2021) states, "Staff do not recommend Auckland Council use landowner approvals to ban off-licence alcohol signage on council-controlled public land. Further investigation has found that the use of landowner approval to control advertising activity for a public health purpose would fail to meet public law decision-making requirements about appropriateness. Council has specific bylaw-making powers for this purpose, and evidence that advertising outside off-licenced outlets contributes to alcohol-related harm is weak to non-existent". The survey can be found at https://akhaveyoursay.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/signs-bylaw]

[2: Graphs 1 and 2 below illustrate there is no correlation between alcohol advertising and consumption.Graph 1. NZ Annual Liquor Advertising Spend in 2013 dollars with per Capita Consumption aged15 +Source: Foundation for Advertising ResearchOver the period between 1986 and 2018 - the majority of which was after the de-facto broadcasting ban ended in 1992, the per capita consumption for New Zealanders aged 15 and above reduced by 21% from 11.282 litres in 1986 to 8.808 litres in 2018. Recent data shows a shift to 8.719 litres in December 2020. (The per head of population (aged 15 years and older) is the measure used by the OECD.)Graph 2. NZ per capita consumption aged 15+ years from 1986-2016Graph 3. Litres of Alcohol Per Head of Population in New Zealand (Annual-December 1986-2020, 15 years and over) Source: Stats NZ Infoshare (25 February 2021)Graph 4. Litres of Alcohol Per Head of Population in New Zealand (Annual-December, aged 15 years and over) (published February 2021) Source: Stats NZ Infoshare (February 2021)Graph 5. Recorded alcohol consumption among adults aged 15+, 2007 and 2017 (or nearest year) NZ consumption below OECD average: OECD Alcohol Consumption, https://data.oecd.org/healthrisk/alcohol-consumption.htm. Alcohol consumption is defined as annual sales of pure alcohol in litres per person aged 15 years and older. The OECD average consumption is 8.9 litres/capita (aged 15 and over), and New Zealand is 8.8 litres/capita. Source: OECD Health Statistics, 2019. New Zealand figures as at 2018.]

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