Vocal Tone joins the boos aimed at the booze companies.
I have worked in the advertising industry for many decades.
I have worked for drink companies to help them promote their products and yes, letting the good times roll, was usually the overarching theme.
With beer, we would always have to include a male bonding scene in a commercial to show the camaraderie group drinking invoked. The great Guinness ‘Surfer’ commercial depicted it as the surfers, having ridden the wave of white horses, celebrated with a joyful roll around on the beach.
Spirits were a step up in terms of maturing tastes and discernment. Tradition and craft crept in to show you as a person of style and impeccable taste.
Forgotten was the image of Gin Lane, where Londoners got so rat-arsed they dropped their babies whilst breastfeeding. Gin became the height of sophistication, as advertised to a track by The Human League that accompanied a film of cascading bubbles, bouncing cubes of ice and lemons being sliced in a surreal limbo setting. I have those images and that tune seared into my memory from seeing it multiple times at the cinema.
I chuckle when I think how Cinzano was advertised with the late, great Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. I cringe when I think how a cool muscle bound dude backed up a timid punter who entered a bar asking for a Babycham, bringing the music and bar ambience to an abrupt halt. ‘I’ll have a Babycham’ boomed the cool dude in his deep baritone voice, creating an ‘I’m Spartacus’ moment where everybody followed his lead and the party was back on.
The drinks companies wanted that bar-call in their advertising leading to brand names entering the lexicon of abbreviated requests.
These practises are still in play today, even though rules and regulations on alcohol marketing have become very restrictive. But drinks companies have become savvy about getting around these codes of conduct to keep their massive profits rolling in.
We live in a culture that has always embraced alcohol as a way to enhance our leisure time, consolidate our victories and toast our triumphs. That has very much been drummed into us by clever marketeers. But being puritanical and condemning the evils of the demon drink has been proved to backfire dramatically.
We only have to see what happened during prohibition in the States to understand that banning drinking only drives it underground to be exploited by the black market.
So, education and information was the only way forward which is why the nanny state created the Central Office of Information (COI) to keep us all on the straight and narrow with some sage advice.
I was in charge of the ‘Think!’ anti-drink drive campaign, trying to deter young men from getting behind the wheel of their cars after as few as two pints.
This was put out on TV, radio and online to the audience who was most likely to offend at Christmas and the summer months, but was also the easiest to influence before drink driving became an ingrained habit.
Even drinks companies have run their own drink drive messages as part of their CSR (corporate social responsibility) campaigns.
Drink Responsibly also comes direct from the booze companies, but only goes as far as to warn about number of units and not ruining an evening by having one too many.
What has never been on the agenda, is offering practical help and effective coping mechanisms for people suffering from mental health conditions.
Solus drinking is never something the drinks companies have proffered up, as it’s not an attractive image. It is however a stark reality for many people dealing with stress, loneliness and mental trauma.
Are drink companies pumping any of their vast profits into curtailing that side of things? Oh no, as that would entail taking responsibility.
However, it seems millennials are beginning to wake up and smell the alcohol.
Recent statistics show that over a third of under 25’s don’t drink. They also reveal that a third of 16- to 24-year-olds have experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months. This increase in mental health problems is driving a different attitude towards drinking within the young and taking the allure off the belief that drinking equals a good time for all.
One such millennial is Tom Harvey, a local entrepreneur who grew up in Twickenham. Tom has opened a company called YesMore, which is an alcohol marketing company that assists brands from grain to glass to promote themselves.
He does this with a clear conscience and is getting behind an awareness campaign to fill the void left by DrinkAware and the government, who disbanded the COI in 2012 as an austerity measure.
Tom is no prude when it comes to drinking, but within his remit at YesMore, wants to discourage self-destructive behaviours of people who might use booze as a crutch against stress, loneliness, depression and trauma.
‘We need to ensure vulnerable people are aware of the downside of alcohol when suffering from mental conditions. Using it to alleviate anxiety, block out unwelcome thoughts and to numb painful memories or regrets can have the polar opposite effect of what drinkers are hoping to achieve’ says Tom.
Should AA still be the only organisation really helping in this arena? The word anonymous just exacerbates the problem and brushes the situation under the carpet.
Let’s be more aware of our drinking, especially us older generations with desperately out-dated views on alcohol drummed into us through the decades.
I was one of the original Mad Men of advertising. I think it’s time for us to all examine our relationship with booze in a fully sober, sane way.