September issue

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Off the wall?

Fighting social networking is a losing game

 TRYING TO LIMIT THE ALCOHOL INDUSTRY’S SPREAD across social media networks is an ambitious aim (news, page 4; news focus, page 6). A look at any leading booze brand’s Facebook page will show hundreds of thousands of followers – the Jack Daniel’s page, for instance, has an almighty 2,225,733 ‘likes’ (rising as I write) and their ‘wall’ shows a collage of faces, young and old. In all the fun of the virtual booze-up is a caution – ‘Your friends at Jack Daniel’s remind you to drink responsibly’. Click on the ‘responsibility’ button and there’s a statement that ‘any posts of pics that are irresponsible or inappropriate will be removed’. The pictures that remain demonstrate the widely different perceptions of ‘responsible marketing’ held by the drinks industry and public health charities. The industry is operating around ASA’s rules by not targeting alcohol at young people, nor linking it with social or sexual success. But the Facebook page is in itself an environment for bonhomie, rendering the notion of ‘responsible posting’ pretty meaningless. The industry has very little to worry about, which must help them to humour the ‘health and responsibility’ dialogue – with an army of Facebook users posting up their boozy holiday snaps, their marketing’s already in hand and out of anyone’s control.

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