A Health Expert Predictably Condemned One Of The Best Drinking Ads We've Ever Seen

A expert has condemned a new drinking awareness ad, saying it is irresponsible (Getty/Christopher Furlong)

A new ad created for non-profit group DrinkWise had been lambasted by a public health expert, who says the animation — featuring a James Bond-Don Draper amalgamation — is “pretty much the most irresponsible advertising I’ve ever seen”.

The character encourages viewers to aspire to a higher order of alcohol consumption. Basically, drink beyond a certain limit and you’re an “amateur”. (Translations: a tosser, nong, or dickhead.)

“The message essentially is that it’s all right to drink, as long as you don’t get totally intoxicated. It’s actually about promoting ‘proper drinking’.

“That might suit the alcohol industry, but that’s the last thing that alcohol education should be about,” Professor Mike Daube, the director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute and the McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth told Fairfax.

“It’s an alcohol-industry group, and I think this shows yet again that the alcohol industry should have no part in alcohol education.”

The problem of excess drinking and its often violent consequences are not likely to be addressed by solutions concocted by an out-of-touch health or political establishment.

Yes, the ad does not advocate alcohol abstinence; yes, it may be linked to a industry group; but drinking is so pervasive in contemporary Australian culture that expecting a total reversal is asinine.

A clear message from the industry that drinking too much makes you a tosser is at least something that might strike a chord with normal people who regularly enjoy several schooners without making a goose of themselves.

The ad is in a visual language that is partly influenced by touchstones of popular culture, most obviously the Mad Men television series. By embracing this culture rather than distancing itself from it, the animation shows further empathy for mainstream values.

New laws came into effect at the weekend in New South Wales that lock people out of pubs, prevent them from going to a bottle shop after 10pm, and demand mandatory minimum sentences for drunken assaults that cause deaths.

The state government needed a tough stance after a number of tragic deaths, but as polling reported over the weekend showed, the actions are unpopular with young voters — the same people the laws are designed to protect.

Speaking as a person in my mid-twenties, this particular drinking “message” presented more cause for reflection than any piece of creative on the topic than I’ve seen yet. Celebrating poise and common sense, rather than admonishing an entire generation for the bad behaviour of a few individuals will at least be taken seriously by the 18-24 year-old market this clip was created for.

Will this ad play a major role in reversing a social trend that has, rightly or wrongly, been elevated to a tier one issue? Probably not.

But by provoking even momentary contemplation (probably the highest goal any form of marketing should realistically aspire to) it is better than related material produced against a pre-determined concept of what is proper — a benchmark that to put it bluntly, is devised by a sub-set of out-of-touch health experts and politicians whose motivations may be well placed, but whose message doesn’t connect.

It’s not perfect. But — and we’re just talking about advertising here — at least it’s engaging, and probably doesn’t deserve the criticism of health experts whose cause it will help rather than derail.

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