Banning alcohol marketing will cost jobs, unlikely to reduce drinking! What about Social Media?


Amstel deliveryThe government appears determined to proceed with the ban on alcohol advertising, something it has threatened for some years now, in a bid to reduce the drinking of alcohol, the target being a 20% reduction within the next seven years, reports The Times.  The proposal to ban such advertising was approved by a committee on substance abuse, consisting of a number of Ministers, earlier this week, and now the Minister of Health wants to present it to a Cabinet committee and then to Cabinet itself for approval.

The first step in the alcohol marketing ban, as contained in a draft ‘Control of Marketing of Alcohol Beverages Bill’ was the approval granted by a committee of Ministers of Sports (Fikile Mbalula), Trade and Industry (Rob Davies), Transport (Dipuo Peters), and Social Development (Bathabile Dlamini).  The public, the wine and other alcoholic beverages industries, and the advertising industry have not been consulted on the proposed Bill.

What is known about the Bill is that it bans alcohol advertising, it bans alcohol beverage companies from sponsoring sports events,  it bans the promotion of alcohol at events, and it bans Castle promotionalcoholic beverage companies from advertising their brand name on their delivery vehicles, the latter a most radical and inexplicable measure!

Econometrix has estimated that the marketing ban could cost 12000 jobs and R500 million in advertising revenue loss for the SABC.  The consultancy also found that advertising spend and alcohol consumption are not correlated. In New Zealand, Canada, and Denmark, where such advertising bans were introduced, they have been lifted again, not reducing alcohol usage.

While the Bill has been referred to as one banning advertising, commonly still associated with above-the-line advertising (i.e. radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, and billboard),  it in fact uses the word ‘marketing’, which would regulate every exposure of an alcoholic brand to the consumer:

*   all forms of Public Relations would have to be prohibited, in one no longer being able to get write-ups and exposure in the traditional above-the-line media

*   all consumer (and maybe even trade) competitions would be prohibited if they had to be communicated to the public

*   all branded events will be banned, e.g. the J&B Met, classic concerts at Nederburg and La Motte, and even Nederburg’s sponsorship of MasterChef SA!

*   all branded promotional material could be prohibited,for example bottle openers, coasters, T-shirts, caps, cooler bags, pens, folders, and even business cards!

*   personalised number plates with brand names in them would be banned

*   wine writing competitions may be banned, of which there is an ever growing number!

*   would winelists be banned in restaurants?!

*   wine tasting events and even wine tasting rooms could be banned, if one were to define these as marketing activities

*   branded wine tasting glasses could be banned

*   all brown tourism signs for wine estates will have to be removed

*   specialist wine and alcoholic beverage magazines may have to close down, e.g. Winestyle.

*   horror of horrors for the wine industry, the Platter wine guide may be banned, to Pendock’s delight!

*   wine and alcoholic focused websites might have to close down, e.g. (belonging to Pendock’s ‘pal’ Kevin Kidson, whom he has spent so much angry airtime on!), Winestyle, and Cybercellar, to name some examples, and even ‘Pendock Uncorked’ on The Times website could be banned, to the delight of WOSA (Wines of South Africa) and many more in the wine industry!

*   sms and e-mail campaigns may flood cellphones, thousands of consumers being communicated to simultaneously.

This leaves the question: will Social Media be the panacea for the impending ban?  Will every alcoholic beverage marketer put all his/her marketing monies into intensive Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Blog activities?  These would be far harder to police by the authorities, but zealous whistle-blowers may report this.  What would be the fine line in writing about a brand of wine, and at what point would it be seen as marketing and banned?  Poor Michael Olivier will have to learn to write again, as he cannot copy-and-paste media releases about wine brands anymore!  The USA has very strict Social Media guidelines, and every Tweet, Facebook post, and blogpost must disclose by law if writers received a product as a gift if they write about it, so as to not mislead the consumer.  Even if the American model has consumer protection as its foundation, it may help local marketers get some exposure for their products.

It will be interesting to see how the alcoholic beverage industry, with huge  financial resources but also with huge sales at stake, will react if the Marketing ban is promulgated, either in managing to delay it or in dealing with it once implemented, in showing its creativity in communicating its brands!

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  Twitter: @WhaleCottage

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