Brewer's Droop #181

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Well, the storm clouds are gathering over the advertising industry again as we approach the ‘season of banning’ – which always seems to be about the middle of winter. Haven’t a clue why.

This time it’s alcohol.

I’ve been watching the debates increase over the past few weeks and when you see a proliferation of academics putting their oars in, then you know that a serious discussion on banning is about to take place. Except that it won’t be a ‘discussion’ at all. It’s a foregone conclusion. Alcohol advertising is going to be banned – as will the product itself ultimately.

I’ve been saying this for the best part of twenty years already and I think my views are well known amongst the circles of those I’ve bored for so long.

They banned tobacco, now it will be alcohol, next it will be junk food and after that it’ll either be butter or coffee.

Chris Moerdyk, one of my favourite SA writers, compares dealing with the problems of alcohol by banning the ads is similar to curing AIDS by eating beetroot. A light-hearted remark which was immediately seized upon by a couple of dour, humourless supporters of the ban who are challenging him to open debates and flinging highly suspect facts and figures at everyone.

Moerdyk is right when he says the proposed ban won’t do much (if anything at all) to halt the alarming number of deaths attributable to drinking. But, in his argument, he mentioned the effect on the workforce, pointing out that many thousands could be put out of work.

It’s a mistake to even mention loss of jobs to those in favour of the ban because they’ll just come back at you with ‘it’s for the health of the nation’ or some such claptrap they spew continuously. They’ve put themselves conveniently on a high moral soap box from which to preach to us all.

I rather think it’s better to challenge their accusations head on.

They’re saying that alcohol advertising increases more people to drink to excess.

Nonsense.

The most serious aspect of the alcohol advertising ban is not the cessation of advertising but the fanaticism of the abolitionists. They want to ban alcohol itself. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever about this – stopping the ads is just the thin end of the wedge. Having banned tobacco advertising they are now saying “it’s time to ban smoking entirely” – and they’ll do it. (And you may have noticed there’s a move afoot to stop liquor sales on Sundays in Gauteng at the moment – but perhaps that’s just a coincidence.)

So if you believe there’s merit in supporting the ban then you must accept the fact that you also support the notion that alcohol will become, in itself, a banned product – as tobacco will become soon.

What did the USA learn from the “noble experiment” of Prohibition (1920-1933)? History has proven that attempts to legislate morality by banning institutions such as alcohol are ineffective. People will continue to do what they want to do whether it is legal or not, and the effects of prohibition generally lead to worse conditions than they are designed to prevent.

During prohibition the consumption of alcohol actually increased.

The police found themselves completely overwhelmed in their attempts to control it. Crime increased by 24% in the first two years and homicides doubled in a decade. Drug addiction soared by 44.6% and expenditure on prison control increased by more than 1,000%

At the moment, in South Africa, we have a problem with Alcoholic Foetal Syndrome (AFS). This, I should add, tends to occur in poorer communities. De Aar has a particularly high incidence for example.

AFS is a result of the mother being an alcoholic. Banning the advertising of Chivas Regal is NOT going to make them reform and sign the pledge. Trust me.

I was a guest on a TV show with an arrogant academic last year who honestly believed that the sight of Jacques Kallis wearing a shirt with ‘Castle’ across his chest would actually turn youngsters into drinkers instantly. You just can’t argue with buffoons like him because they are so superior they cannot possibly be wrong you see.

Abuse of a product like alcohol can lead to death. It’s a pity, but there you are. It’s an acceptable loss.

And before I start getting hate mail from professors and social workers let me explain what I mean by ‘acceptable loss’.

Petrol, for example, does more to pollute our planet than any other product. In fact exhaust fumes kill a damn sight more people than alcohol (or smoking) does – but we accept it although the remedy, following the abolitionists theory, would be to ban it.

While we’re about it, cars kill many many more people than alcohol. Ban them.

Glue sniffing damages millions of young brains around the world. Ban it.

MacDonalds and the other burger places lead to obesity which kills people. Ban them.

Many TV programmes encourage violent behaviour following which people die. Ban it.

Butter clogs arteries. Ban the muck.

Caffeine makes people excitable. Make it illegal.

And let’s not forget drain cleaner, rat poison, meths, oh I could go on all day, and I’m sure you could add hundreds of more things to the list.

To remind you of how politicians think I’ll remind you about a sign I saw in a London shop quite recently. I was looking at a display of aerosol deodorants and there was a large sign which said “Not for sale to under 18’s’.

It seems that a few kids were abusing the product – lighting the spray to make flame throwers or sniffing it or squirting it up their bottoms, I don’t know. So the authorities decided the best way to stop this was to BAN it. Of course that must have been a huge success. Did they really think that a 17 year old oik wouldn’t just nick his Mum or Dad’s can?

Banning things is not a solution. In fact the reverse is true.

What all these abolitionists (who are far more knowledgable than you or I) fail to recognise is that it’s EDUCATION which will be most effective against the abuse of any product. Add education to a morally strong family structure and you’ve just about got all the moral problems solved.

Seriously though, and it’s not to protect advertising revenue or to save jobs, SOMEBODY has to stand up to these idiots and tell them to find something better to do with their time rather than sit around all day thinking of something else they can ban.

As a fully paid-up pariah, I sometimes look around at all these ‘arbiters of normality’ and wonder what they do for excitement. If they’re not smoking, drinking, eating burgers and biltong or not watching TV, what on earth can they be doing?

I really would like to know. (Or perhaps it’s better I don’t).

ASA DECISION

There was a curious decision made recently by the ASA about complaints against BAT’s recent campaign advising smokers not to buy illegal cigarettes. The ads have now been banned.

I fully appreciate that British American Tobacco is not a philanthropic organisation and they must be really pissed about the number of (smuggled, fake and stolen) fags being sold on street corners but surely someone should be stopping this?

CANSA believes “…by discouraging the sale of illegal cigarettes, BATSA’s advertising campaign contravened the Tobacco Products Control Act.”

I’m really struggling to understand this logic. I appreciate that CANSA is doing a magnificent job but, honestly, can a warning about illegal cigarettes be construed as “promoting sales” (the Act prohibits the advertising of tobacco products). Was BAT actually breaking that law? Seems like a very grey area to me.

The result, of course, is that now criminals have been given the green light to continue their nefarious activities – one consequence of which is that government doesn’t collect their taxes on contraband, not to mention the increase in wholesale tobacco robberies we can expect.

Weird.

NEW DATABASE

Thanks for the huge response I had about our new database (the one for freelancers and suppliers to the industry), there’s obviously a big demand to this information!

Our plans are well underway and I’ll be writing to all those who wish to be listed very soon.

This will make the Brewer’s Databases a million times more comprehensive than anything else on the market.

Hope you’re enjoying the winter log fires and mugs of soup. (Political correctness prevents me from mentioning wine, chocolates, cigars, hot dogs and beer).

By the way, there’s an excellent conference with A-list speakers in Joburg next week – the “African Marketing Show”. Contact marcia@netactive.co.za for more details. I’d definitely be there if I could.

Cheers!

Chris

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