by Hannah Pierce, Alcohol Policy and Research Coordinator


Have you seen a lot of alcohol ads on your social media feed this year? Perhaps bottle shops are encouraging you to stock up on your favourite gin, or wineries are offering to deliver 12 bottles directly to your door.

If your Facebook and Instagram accounts have been flooded with alcohol advertising recently, you’re not alone. A recent snapshot report from Cancer Council WA and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education suggests that the alcohol industry is heavily marketing its’ products during the COVID-19 pandemic. In just one hour on a Friday night, one person was targeted with 107 sponsored alcohol ads on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. That’s roughly one alcohol ad every 35 seconds.

Not only are the alcohol ads relentless, they’re full of messages telling us to drink, and drink more. Here are six tactics the alcohol industry has been using during this public health crisis to encourage us to buy and drink more alcohol.

Home delivery

Even when we need to stay at home, it has never been easier to buy alcohol. Alcohol ads on social media often have a ‘Shop now’ or ‘Get offer’ button linking directly to an online store, making it very simple (and tempting) to impulse buy. Alcohol companies and liquor retailers are promoting free delivery, including delivering ‘directly to your door’. ‘Contact-free delivery’ is also in vogue, reminding us that you can still get alcohol even when self-isolating.

Alcohol marketing images

Discounts and giveaways

‘75% off RRP’

‘$15 off your first purchase’

‘Get 2 FREE stemless glasses’

Sound familiar? Discounts and giveaways are regularly used to entice us to buy alcohol. Companies promote saving money on your first order, or when you spend over a certain amount.

Everyone loves a bargain, but discounts and giveaways aren’t about saving the customer money - research shows they encourage people to buy more alcohol.

Alcohol marketing images

Bulk purchases

Many ads encourage us to purchase larger amounts of alcohol than we might have originally intended to. Some ads use phrases like ‘stock up’, while others encourage us to buy alcohol in bulk, such as 12 bottles of wine. Sneaky tactics to get us to buy more include only applying discounts or free delivery to purchases of multiple products, or when a minimum spend is reached.

Alcohol marketing images

Necessary to ‘survive’

Some ads during this time are implying that alcohol is necessary to ‘survive’ the pandemic. By selling ‘red wine survival packs’ or asking if we need ‘extra wine’ to help us get through lockdown, the alcohol industry is telling us that we need to buy and drink their products to help us cope, relax, or feel better.

Alcohol marketing images

Supposedly ‘healthier’ alcohol

A tactic used by many industries (junk food, we’re looking at you) is attaching health claims to unhealthy products. We’ve been seeing alcohol companies use terms like ‘vegan’, ‘natural’, and ‘organic’ to describe some drinks. These claims create ‘health halos’, and give the impression that some products are healthier than others. But when it comes to alcohol products, it doesn’t matter how many healthy-sounding words are in the ad – it’s the alcohol itself that can harm our health, including being a cause of seven different cancers.

Alcohol marketing images

Alcohol & the COVID-19 pandemic

And finally, some alcohol companies don’t bother with subtlety and are just telling us to drink during lockdown and isolation (or #iso). We’re being encouraged to have a ‘lockdown happy hour’, take part in a ‘confinement sale’, or to ‘wine from home’. Ads might ask us if we’re ‘thirsty’, or tell us to ‘keep drinks flowing’.

Spoiler alert: Alcohol is not the solution to surviving the COVID-19 pandemic. These are all just tactics the alcohol industry is using to get us to buy and drink more alcohol.

We know that this is a difficult time, and we’re all looking for ways to reduce stress. However, it’s important to keep in mind that drinking can actually make you feel more stressed and anxious as well as impacting on sleep and your ability to fight disease.

Alcohol marketing images

It’s never been more important to put your health first. Reducing your drinking will not only help keep you healthy and safe now, you'll reduce your risk of cancers and other health problems later. For tips on how to keep your drinking in check, take a look out blog 6 top tips to keep your drinking in check.

Have you seen any alcohol ads recently that you think are telling you to drink more alcohol? Let us know about them! Email the ads you see to alcoholprograms@cancerwa.asn.au.


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