When the lockdown was announced in Greater Sydney at the end of June, businesses that sell alcohol products immediately launched their lockdown-related marketing campaigns.
Almost like clockwork, social media posts from online liquor delivery retailers exploded into our feeds with phrases such as:
- “We know the lockdown is difficult. That’s why we will be there every moment.
- “Stay safe and stock up on over 5,000 beers, wines and spirits with free delivery right to your door.”
- ‘Lockdown love for Sydney’ with free delivery and lockdown discounts.
Dan Murphy sent an email reassuring people that their bottle shops would stay open and a Lion liquor company executive tweeted that if people were going to ‘panic buy’ they should panic buy the bottle. one of their products.
These are not isolated examples.
Analysis of more than 100 alcohol company ads on social media in May 2020 found that a quarter encouraged people to drink as a way to get through the pandemic and 71% made explicit or implicit reference to COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, alcohol companies have used COVID as a marketing opportunity and an opportunity to expand online delivery of alcohol products.
And now, with advances in digital marketing, alcohol companies can target people with precision. Just as people who visit and buy books online are targeted to buy more books, people who visit and buy alcoholic products online are targeted to buy even more.
With digital marketing, alcohol can be promoted and pushed around the clock. By design, alcohol companies target the people who buy the most alcohol, even if they are the most vulnerable or make money. hurt or injure those around them.
We know that alcohol companies do this day in and day out without being directly exposed to the many harms of alcohol that far too many Australians experience. These sales happen with the click of a mouse or through a tap on a screen without any human interaction. These companies don’t even have to make eye contact with the people they’re selling their products to.
COVID-19 has been very profitable for alcohol companies selling take-out and delivery alcohol. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that sales of these companies increased revenue by 27%, or $3.3 billion, from 2019 to 2020, and these high sales continue in 2021.
These super profits come at the expense of the health and well-being of families and communities across Australia. Far too many Australians are negatively affected by domestic violence, mental illness, chronic health conditions, injury and death, and all are made worse by alcohol.
Despite the potential for these alcohol companies to cause harm, the checks and balances we expect as a community do not exist. There is no independent regulation of the marketing of alcohol. Most online liquor delivery companies can deliver from dawn until late at night and most are not even required to verify their identity when the sale is concluded.
Liquor companies should not sell alcohol to children.
Alcohol companies should not use personal data to target and market our most vulnerable.
Alcohol companies should not deliver alcoholic products to homes late at night.
Leaders of liquor companies should not be able to make super profits at the expense of the health and safety of our families and communities.
But right now that is what is happening and will continue to happen unless governments act.
Catherine Giorgi is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.