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  • Lauri Beekmann

Norway: 1 out of 2 Promote Alcohol on Social Media

12.06.2023 - A new report from the analytics firm Rambøll reveals that roughly half of the surveyed alcohol manufacturers and suppliers are breaching the advertising ban on social media. "It seems as though social media has become a free zone for alcohol advertising. The enforcement must be modernized now," says Eli Marie Stavlund of Av-og-til. There have been many reactions after the Directorate of Health sent out warnings to alcohol manufacturers and suppliers who had advertised alcohol on social media. Now a new report shows that the advertising ban is largely disregarded, and the extent of breaches is vast.

"This underlines the importance of the supervision the Directorate of Health is now implementing! The lack of enforcement of the advertising ban on social media, and the absence of control over the industry, have allowed a culture where the law is violated on a large scale to flourish. A full 1 out of 2 of the actors investigated are violating the advertising ban,"

Eli Marie Stavlund, acting Secretary General of the organization Av-og-til, states – who commissioned Rambøll to prepare a report on the extent of alcohol advertising in social media.

The report "Advertising Prohibition against Alcohol on Social Media" (download here) shows, among other things, that:

57 out of 126 alcohol manufacturers and suppliers controlled by the Directorate of Health received warnings about breaches of the advertising ban. Of the 36 actors studied in the report, over 700 violations were detected, on average 20 violations per actor. Interviews reveal a significant disparity in understanding the ban between the alcohol industry and the Directorate of Health. "Alcohol is not a regular commodity, and most people agree with the advertising ban – and that we are not served by allowing alcohol advertising. There is majority support in the population for the advertising ban, there is broad political consensus – and through the interviews conducted in the report, it is apparent that this is also largely supported by the industry," says Stavlund and adds:

"But the law loses its value if it is not obeyed. Advertising money has moved from linear TV to social media; therefore, the advertising ban must be enforced there," emphasizes Stavlund.

The report also reveals that many of the manufacturers have been surprised by how the regulations should be interpreted.

"It's clear that more knowledge about the advertising ban is needed in the alcohol industry," says Stavlund.

"Enforcement must be modernized."

The Directorate of Health ensures that alcohol manufacturers comply with the advertising ban on social media. After seeing how big the problem has developed, Stavlund of Av-og-til is clear about the solution.

"We need a supervisory body and compliance with the regulations that are adapted to social media every day where marketing can spread on a large scale to very many very quickly. We need more frequent supervision and significant financial consequences for those who violate the ban so that the actors no longer find it profitable to take the chance of breaking the ban. The enforcement must be modernized."

She believes that today it may appear as though there are almost no consequences for violating the law on the advertising ban.

"We support the introduction of a penalty fee when the advertising ban is breached. We hope that a penalty fee of a sufficient size will soon be implemented, one that serves as a deterrent, and importantly: that the Directorate of Health receives enough resources to address violations swiftly."

Erosion of the law not the solution

In media, cases related to breaches of the advertising ban on social media, one could, according to Stavlund, get the impression that the entire industry is dissatisfied with the supervision and desires a liberalization of the advertising ban on social media.

"The picture in the report is much more nuanced. Just because some are shouting very loudly does not mean they are right – or have broad support. Several in the industry welcome the supervision and have been waiting for clearer answers on what is allowed and not on social media. We also see that there is broad support for the advertising ban, even though some are advocating for an erosion of the law in social media to get more leeway."

She believes the reason the industry reacts differently could be connected to how they have related to the legislation.

"We see that some have consciously exploited the absence of supervision to market alcohol on social media, because they can earn money and market shares from it. This has potentially harmed the other half of the industry that has followed the rules, and thus possibly lost market shares. This is not how it should be."

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