We need to talk
Young Victorians are drinking less than previous generations at the same time but are still at risk from binge-drinking and alcohol-related violence. This shift away from regular drinking by young people was an opportunity for VicHealth (our peak health promotion organisation in Victoria) to engage in a meaningful conversation on the topic of alcohol harms. Perhaps now is the time for the idea of drinking in moderation to catch on?
Finding the conversations
Pretty Neat was engaged to deliver a platform for two-way communication with Victorians and began with a listening project to go deeper in to the trend toward drinking less. Was it real? Was it everyone? Do we talk about it? There was a lot to understand. Across social listening platforms and face to face conversations we turned our ear to Victorians 18-29 to hear their point of view on alcohol harms.
It’s just what Aussies do
When research participants have to dodge a drunken fight on the way to a group and one participant has a shiner from an alcohol-related incident it’s clear something is up. Younger Victorians are more deeply involved in our alcohol culture with every weekend, uni event or party touched by booze. Those over 25 years have a more seasoned experience with alcohol with work, relationships and other other factors limiting the big nights out. Almost all when discussing the topic of alcohol harms feel we drink too much, it impacts our lives in the worst ways and that we can do better to regulate it’s impact. While we don’t mind a bit of drunk chat online (including remorse) alcohol and it’s harms is not something many young people talk about directly with each other. How could we raise it without being over-bearing and with reference to the other factors at play?
It’s not me, it’s you
It’s not an easy or common thing to be the voice of moderation. While young people are drinking less it’s certainly not a coordinated effort and there is no voice for change in 2018. Despite the mounting evidence against even moderate drinking we tend to hold our tongue and let each of us make up our own mind. The idea of other factors influencing our drinking choices featured in two of our early approaches and was well received by the broader project team. We put it to young people: Are you aware of how alcohol is marketed to you? Do you know much about the regulation of alcohol advertising? What about booze and sport? While a few different ways into this idea were generated the most unsettling one for young people was that they were being manipulated without consent. Top Spin was in motion.
The association of alcohol with sport is pretty troubling. – Alexander, 25
Creeps get it easy
Alcohol companies in Victoria enjoy a fairly supportive environment and very few limitations on how the product is marketed, when and to who. They are well connected and spend a lot on the science of consumption. Bringing this to life and highlighting it’s uninvited nature happened through our blue booze company character. Creepin’ on parties, BBQs and sporting get togethers he’s there buying another round and whispering ‘its OK mate, just one more’. Top Spin came from the idea of being spun to by PR and advertising people and spinning it back to them with some extra. As a creative competition was part of the brief to Pretty Neat designing the mechanics, voting system, judging criteria and prizes all formed part of the creative response.
Partnerships have been a critical element in the success of Top Spin to date. The project team agreed partners would be helpful and important to: connect directly with young people through their networks, reach a young creative community who might be open to taking part and lending a diversity of voices to the initiative. Universities, youth organisations, health organisations and creative organisations all put their hand up to have a say on the matter of alcohol harms. We put our heads together early in development of the initiative to discuss what young people might want from it, how they might be involved and how partners could both support Top Spin and benefit also. Partners were provided with common and bespoke assets for their own organisation, support on what and when to communicate and the freedom to share the initiative in their own way. Some partners provided judges and ambassadors also. With the broader team together and a bulging Dropbox we were ready to go.
Working the angles
Behind the scenes the PR lead on the project had been building relationships with media and lining up possible launch stories for Top Spin. While data on the trend had been available for months the youth aspect of the trend had not been covered in a significant way. Going hard at industry for selling to young people could provoke a robust conversation we thought. On launch day radio was busy with coverage of the competition and idea that booze companies are not playing a fair game. Early winners were also in demand with coverage in local press and a steady stream of content being published by organisations interested in the health of young people. Anecdotes from winners about “booze getting under our skin” and the fact that it’s “everywhere” added to the case against sleazy boozy company tactics.
In the first five weeks there have been hundreds of entries, thousands of sessions on the initiative website and 10 winners of either the judge’s choice or people’s choice award. The themes of Booze and sport, PR and advertising, Influence, Life lessons and Our mates have broken down complex issues and dynamics into a more digestible form. Entries have shown a good understanding of the tactics and methods in use by booze companies and some truly excellent submissions. The most encouraging entries are those who hadn’t considered how the market works to encourage their drinking and that they feel better informed with their choices after taking part.
Seeing booze differently
In interviews and entries to date the feedback has been focussed on the idea that young people had not been encouraged to think about the role of industry in their choices before and Top Spin has helped with this. Formal evaluation is set to begin soon where interviews will be held with those that either took part or were aware of the initiative. Our goals of reaching chosen media over the five weeks and directly engaging a community of invested young people have been met and we’ve even managed to get industry hot under the collar about the initiative. Stay tuned for the outcome of interviews with young people in coming weeks.