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Features of alcohol harm reduction advertisements that most motivate reduced drinking among adults  

A BMJ Open article explores the effectiveness of alcohol harm reduction mass media campaigns, with the aim of (1) identifying existing advertisements with greatest potential to motivate reduced alcohol consumption, (2) assessing consistency across audience subgroups in ad effectiveness and (3) identifying ad features associated with effectiveness.

2174 Australian adult weekly drinkers recruited from an online panel were randomly assigned to view three of 83 English-language alcohol harm reduction ads. Each ad was viewed and rated by a mean of 79 participants. After viewing each ad, participants reported the extent to which they felt motivated to reduce their drinking. Ads were ranked from most to least motivating using predicted means adjusted for demographic characteristics and alcohol consumption. The characteristics of the top-ranked 15% of ads (most motivating) were compared with the middle 70% and bottom 15%.

Regarding the key communication intent of the ad, the distribution of ads containing a ‘why change behaviour’ intent was significantly different across the three groups, with all of the top-ranked ads carrying a ‘why’ message but only half of the bottom-ranked ads doing so. In addition, 58% of the top-ranked ads featured information on the long-term harms of alcohol consumption, compared with 7% of middleranked ads and none of the bottom-ranked ads. Seven of the top-ranked ads featured information on long-term harms. Of these seven ads, six mentioned cancer, four mentioned stroke, two mentioned heart disease, two mentioned high blood pressure, one mentioned liver disease and one ad mentioned other non-specific ‘serious health problems’. Four of the middle-ranked ads that featured long-term harms, cancer was mentioned in three and other non-specific ‘serious health problems’ were mentioned in one). A higher proportion of all top-ranked ads presented low-risk drinking guidelines (58%) compared with the middle-ranked (5%) and bottom-ranked ads (0%).

The distribution of ads differed by emotional tone, with 50% of bottom-ranked ads having a positive tone compared with none of the top-ranked ads. Conversely, 92% of top-ranked ads had a negative tone compared with 50% of bottom-ranked ads, although this difference did not reach statistical significance (p=.085). Top-ranked ads were less likely to feature a dramatisation communication style (67% compared with 100% of bottom-ranked ads) and top-ranked ads appeared more likely than others to use simulation/animation (25%), this difference was not statistically significant.

While top-ranked ads did not differ in their use of graphic imagery, they were more likely than bottomranked ads to contain explicit portrayals of drinking (58% vs 8%, respectively) and were less likely to contain no portrayal of drinking than middleranked or bottom-ranked ads (0% vs 25% and 75%, respectively). Finally, a significantly higher proportion of top-ranked ads targeted a general adult audience (83%), whereas middle-ranked (46%) and bottomranked ads (58%) were more likely to specifically target young adults.

The authors conclude that the effectiveness of alcohol harm reduction campaigns may be improved by directly communicating alcohol's long-term harms to the general adult population of drinkers along with drinking guidelines. By doing so, campaigns can also efficiently influence high-risk drinkers and key demographic subgroups.

Source: Features of alcohol harm reduction advertisements that most motivate reduced drinking among adults: an advertisement response study. Wakefield MA; Brennan E; Dunstone K; Durkin SJ; Dixon HG; Pettigrew S; Slater MD. BMJ Open, Vol 7, No 4, 2017, Art No e014193, 12pp.


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