Alcohol advertising has been restricted in Finland, even though the international studies used as preparatory sources employ questionable methodologies. The prevention of alcohol use among children and young people has been quoted as grounds to justify the legislation. Underage drinking has been declining throughout the 21st century. The majority of the studies used as bases for the legislation do not examine underage alcohol consumption at all. Alcohol advertising and awareness campaigns were covered in the special feature ‘Murtuneet myytit’ (‘Discredited Myths’) in June 2014.
In the feature, Henrikki Tikkanen, Professor of Marketing at Aalto University School of Business and Stockholm University, is amazed at how this legislation has been based on inferior data, arrogant claims, and a lack of understanding.
“Business economics, marketing and consumer behaviour are practically absent from these studies, which give no more than a weak indication – without any corroborating evidence – that the planned restrictions on alcohol advertising would have an effect on total alcohol consumption in general, to say nothing of underage drinking,” says Tikkanen.
“It’s as if they purposefully don’t want to understand what marketing really is, nor what part advertising plays in marketing’s arsenal of competitive weapons.”
Advertising primarily influences market share, but does not create fresh demand in a mature market. Awareness campaigns highlighting the detrimental effects of alcohol are effective – as long as they are carried out properly and professionally. The claim that alcohol advertising works too well, and should therefore be severely regulated, while alcohol awareness campaigns do not work, is therefore incorrect. According to the feature, alcohol awareness campaigns in Finland are old-fashioned and conducted in a manner that alienates consumers from the central idea, that is, to reduce the detrimental effects of alcohol.
“Drinking culture can only be changed by altering people’s attitudes, so that drinking for the sake of getting drunk is no longer socially acceptable. By restricting advertising, it makes it appear that something has been done; yet in reality, advertising restrictions do not reduce the detrimental effects of alcohol,” says Elina Ussa, Managing Director of the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry.
In Finland, alcohol advertising is now very strictly regulated compared to many other EU countries. For example, in Denmark, alcohol advertising was completely deregulated in 2003. Finnish authorities supervise the legality of advertising and the Council of Ethics in Advertising (MEN) issues a statement on whether an advertisement complies with good practice. In addition, the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry has its own self-regulatory guidelines for its marketing communications, which its members adhere to. As part of these self-regulatory guidelines, all of the television commercials and outdoor advertising produced by member companies are checked by a preliminary inspection committee.
The preliminary inspection committee is an independent working group whose expertise includes marketing, advertising, and law. Its members have been chosen so that no one has any connections to the Federation or its member companies.
The feature ‘Murtuneet myytit’ (‘Discredited Myths’) was commissioned by the Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry in June 2014. It was produced by Newsbrokers, as a Silent Reportage report on the methods and effectiveness of alcohol advertising and temperance campaigns.
Managing Director Elina Ussa, tel. +358 (0)45 269 7711
Communications Manager Outi Heikkinen, tel. +358 (0)50 370 8677
The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry promotes the interests of producers of beer, cider, long drinks, soft drinks and mineral waters in Finland. Its members are Captol Invest Oy, Oy Hartwall Ab, Nokian Panimo Oy, Olvi Oyj, Red Bull Finland Oy, Saimaan Juomatehdas, and Oy Sinebrychoff Ab. The Federation of the Brewing and Soft Drinks Industry operates in connection with the Finnish Food and Drink Industries Federation and represents Finland’s third largest industry in the food and drink branch in terms of the value of production.