PERSPECTIVE: Why alcopop and tobacco ads test morals in adland

Time for a little soul-searching to creep into the tobacco advertising and alcopops debates. They are both areas in which private beliefs might conflict with professional positions. In the end, each individual has to ask which is the more important to them.

Time for a little soul-searching to creep into the tobacco

advertising and alcopops debates. They are both areas in which private

beliefs might conflict with professional positions. In the end, each

individual has to ask which is the more important to them.



Alcopops is simple. The brewers’ position is indefensible beyond a

business perspective. Let’s be honest, the advertising - not to mention

the packaging and the flavour of the products themselves - is aimed at a

youthful market.



It uses imagery and an attitude that appeal to a loose group of young

people, that certainly includes those under the legal drinking age. The

brewers know this, their ad agencies and design consultancies know

this.



It is immoral behaviour and, I would argue, unprofessional, because the

shameless disingenuousness of the defences proffered make people less

inclined to believe more sustainable defences in other controversial

areas.



The only admissible defence is that alcopops are legally available. This

situation must change soon. There’s more at stake than a drop in

brewers’ profits.



Tobacco is more difficult. I’m a rabid anti-smoker, and fail to see why

it’s fine to walk about puffing smelly dried weeds, and inflicting the

odour and fumes on everyone else. And, as a principle isn’t a principle

until it costs you something, it’s cost me a good few otherwise

deliciously enticing snogs. Sadly, my idea to have the product banned

shows no prospect of success. Therefore, I believe, the manufacturers

should be able to advertise their disgusting wares.



It is the only defensible position. However, so many industry figures

have spouted the Machiavellian ’advertising doesn’t encourage

consumption, only brand-switching’ nonsense for so long, some actually

now believe it. As for an ad ban giving rise to a price war and

therefore increased consumption, please! Do we really believe it is

beyond the wit of our new Government to whack on more duty to negate

such price cuts?



The argument that playground word-of-mouth is a greater influence than

advertising is the most obscene. Why is smoking cool? First, because

it’s illicit, and anything illicit is cool to the young. Second, the

images associated with smoking are cool. Once, this meant great

Hollywood stars smoking on the silver screen. Today, given the lengths

TV and film-makers go to avoid such images, the source of the

association with cool is advertising. Dot Cotton puffing away in the

Queen Vic is not cool, but Marlboro and Silk Cut ads are.



Perhaps some readers think I’m being naive in expressing these views.

But it’s better to be honest than twist ourselves up in knots trying to

defend what we feel to be wrong, just because that’s what we’re told we

should think.



Perspective, page 17.