Australia is known for unique public education campaigns to reduce drink driving and alcohol abuse. Victoria Province’s Transport Accident Commission is famous for its emotionally-charged commercials that show graphic depictions of crashes. Its 20-year anniversary video has been viewed nearly 16 million times on YouTube alone.
But a new social media campaign from Australia’s DrinkWise is raising eyebrows. The nonprofit organization was founded in 2005 by some of the country’s alcohol producers and distributors with a mission to promote “a healthier and safer drinking culture in Australia.” But some critics are suggesting that the campaign, titled “Drinking. Do it Properly.” uses the guise of responsibility to actually promote drinking, to the benefit of the alcohol industry.
The short, animated videos show the differences between “classy” drinking and “getting wasted.” According to the ads, “professional” drinkers know their limit and stop when they have reached “the realm of drinking excellence.” “Amateurs,” on the other hand, wear beer helmets and become so inebriated that they lose control of bodily functions—in the entryway of their girlfriend’s parent’s house.
The spots depict the unpleasantness of getting completely plastered, but they simultaneously glamorize drinking. The black and white videos make visual allusions to James Bond and Mad Men’s Don Draper—two of the most famous drinkers in pop culture. (Never mind that UK docs recently concluded that James Bond’s copious alcohol consumption would cause the spy to suffer from tremors and impotence.) The DrinkWise narrator appears in a mod-style suit and speaks with a vaguely British accent. And while discussing “proper” drinking, he sips a martini in one ad and holds a highball and pets a tiger in another. The underlying message seems to be that drinking too much is bad, but drinking just the “right” amount will turn you into better, more sophisticated version of yourself.
Interestingly, the ads aren’t readily found on the DrinkWise website but do appear on their Facebook page and YouTube channel. The campaign even has its own web address: http://howtodrinkproperly.com. We caution that some of the videos are inappropriate and use mildly offensive language. Most will just make your jaw drop.
Some commenters have argued that having the alcohol industry produce anti-drinking PSAs is the very definition of an oxymoron. But that isn’t always the case. In the U.S. the Century Council—which is also funded by distillers—has earned recognition for its programs and PSAs to address alcohol-related problems like drunk driving and underage drinking.
Others have argued that the DrinkWise ads take a practical approach by drawing a clear distinction between responsibly enjoying alcohol and drunkenness. What do you think of the ads and their message to “drink properly”?