Walking to work this morning, I walked past, as I almost always do, a billboard advertising, I think, bourbon. Which bourbon, I can't recall, but that's not important. Down in the bottom left hand corner is a little speech balloon attached to no one, asking us to drink responsibly. I've seen this about for a while. And I've seen quite a few, general degenerative comments about the drink responsibly campaign. The idea behind it is good. I do think however, that it is being gone about the wrong way.
It is generally held, that because it is the alcohol industry behind the drink responsibly tags that are adorning our alcohol advertising, that they don't really mean it because they want to sell as much alcohol as possible. This, I think, or a least hope, is not a particularly well thought out criticism of the people who run large alcohol companies. As much as I disagree with some of their products and marketing (only some mind, some of them are fantastic) I rather hope that the people running these companies aren't stupid. Yes, they've got a bucket load of money to throw at lobbying politician's, but lobbying will only take you so far if the entire population is against you. I am presuming that they will not be wanting a tightly regulated industry. Which makes sense. So efforts have to be made to keep the industry from being regulated. And for this, I imagine the best approach would be two pronged. First, be very nice to the politicians. Secondly, show the community that you're part of it, rather than just a company trying to squeeze as much money out of people as quickly as possible. I'm pretty sure, you make more money by keeping a reign on things and being in a lightly regulated market for 20 years than you do by abusing the market for a few years, striping it of every cent, fucking things up and then being in a tightly regulated market for the next 15. So because it's industry behind it, they don't really mean it, doesn't really stack up. I do however, think they are going about it the wrong way. The right way of course ...
is, in my ever so humble opinion, involves specifically promoting drinking. forgive the rambling nature of the following, this is still a thought in formation. At the moment, it is all about restraint. And I don't think it should be. It should be about getting people to think about why they are drinking. Ideally, any sane industry wants a big a supportive customer base as possible. If the sole goal of the industry is to get you to drink more, it is not going to have widespread public support because it is going to be seen as an outside force taking from the community. Drink responsibly come across, on the face of it to be a cynical attempt with authoritarian overtones (we know better, don't do it) to play a part in the community.
So getting people to think about why they are drinking. How to do it? I'm not sure. I would imagine something focusing on the fact that it's not just the alcohol that's fun. A lot of drinking is social drinking and while the alcohol is part of the fun a large amount of the fun comes from the people around you. It ceases to be be fun when you become so plastered that you can barely interact with the people around you. So rather than simply saying drink responsibly in small type at the bottom of all the advertising, I think the industry would be better served by some form of dialogue with the community such that drinking is demonstrated as fun, excessive drinking is not. This, I freely admit would be difficult, it could quite easily slip over into the scare tactics of the drink driving ads. They have their place, but it's not the same tone that should be aimed for. It shouldn't be trying to scare people away from alcohol, it should be encouraging them to drink, but in a manner that discourages over consumption. A hard sell.
The liquor industry, if they're sensible, can be part of the community, welcomed and profitable. Drink responsibly, shows, I believe, intent, just not nous.