Content analysis of current TV adds concerning alcohol awareness
At the present time, the government’s alcohol awareness programme is focused on a clear process which utilises television advertisements in order to derive the maximum impact. The current advertisement campaign centres on two forms of television ads which are presently running concurrently. The names ascribed to these are; ‘Drinking Causes Damage You Can’t See’, which constitutes two separate ads and ‘Why Let Drink Decide’, which constitutes only one. Each form of ad is focused on a specific societal group and thus differs substantially in terms of content and contextual focus. However, the main focus of both ads bears strong similarities even if the target audience differs. In addition, these ads represent a continuation of much of the alcohol awareness programme undertaken by the government in recent years.
The aim of ‘Drinking Causes Damage You Can’t See’ is exemplified in the title and forms part of the wider government alcohol awareness programme called ‘Know Your Limits’. As such, the focus of this ad is to highlight the degree to which alcohol consumption results in physical damage which may not immediately be obvious to the individual drinker. Moreover, there are two specific ads, one focused at men and the other at women. The male ad is set in a pub, whereas the female ad is set in a kitchen inside a normal household setting. The voiceover of the male aimed ad is provided by a man, whereas the voiceover in the ad aimed at females is provided by a woman. Both ads predominantly use the same words and terminology, which only differs as a result of statistical information.
In terms of verbal methods, the voice over of each ad outlines the inadvertent health risks which can occur as a result of drinking more than the government’s recommended daily intake. With the male ad, the recommended intake is given in relation to pints of strong lager, with large glasses of wine being used in the ad aimed at women. The outline of potential health risks in both ads centres on increases in blood pressure; increases in the chances of a stroke; and increases in the chances of developing mouth cancer. The statistical information offered with regards these health risks is almost the same in both ads, with both ads citing the Department of Health as the source of the information. As such, both the women’s and men’s ad suggest the possibility of a threefold increase in potential stroke and a threefold increase in the possible development of mouth cancer. However, whereas the women’s ad warns of twofold increase in the possibility of high blood pressure, in the male ad this is suggested to be fourfold.
The actors in both ads suggest that they are only going to have two of their respective drinks and then drink no more. However, upon slight pressure being placed on them by peers, they decide to have another drink. Given that the overall aim of the ads is to highlight the unseen damage which can result from drinking more than the recommended daily allowance, both contain the same visual imagery in support of this message. Throughout the first part of the 41 second ads, the individual who is the focus of analysis is visually altered in a way which highlights the insides of their bodies. Particular attention is paid to the major organs which are the subject of the voice over. Therefore when the voice over outlines the increased chances of high blood pressure, stroke and mouth cancer, the visual image of the persons insides become dark red on the affected organ or part of the body. Towards the end of the ads, the visual image returns to that of how the person would normally look. At this point the voice over asserts that drinking alcohol causes damage you can’t see, thus directly linking the message with the visual images and audio assertions made throughout.
The two ads described focus specifically on the adult population and utilise visual imagery to enhance the message. Alternately, the other current government ad campaign does not utilise overt imagery and uses children as the main focus. The main bulk of the ad consists of seven separate sections which all involve one child actor on their own. Each of the seven sections uses a different child actor and addresses a different issue of concern relating to alcohol consumption and children. The visual settings for the seven sections are made to be the normal family home environment. The individual sections themselves differ in terms of length; however in conjunction they represent the main body of the ad.
In the first section, a young girl suggests that within a few years she will be going to parties where there will be alcohol available. In the second, another young girl outlines how by the age of fifteen she will be pressured for sex by a male at a party. In the third section, a young boy points out that when at parties he will be offered other things he should decline. Following this, the fourth section constitutes a young girl suggesting she will be subject to peer pressure from her friends. In the fifth section, a young boy outlines how he will become involved in a fight as a result of alcohol and have to go to hospital. The sixth section involves a young girl outlining how she will be offered a lift from a stranger. Finally, in the last section a young boy suggests that when attending his first music gig, he will be offered drugs.
The ad concludes with a female adult voice over which outlines how, if parents talk to their children about alcohol at an early point, there is less chance that alcohol will have a deciding influence. Therefore, there is a clear link outlined between the seven sections where children relay various negative experiences and a lack of knowledge regarding alcohol. The ad finishes with the voice over asserting the central phrase of the awareness campaign, ‘Why Let Drink Decide?’