Alcohol and advertising

Preventative healthcare

Advertisements shape what we think and how we feel. They sell more than the product itself. They sell ideas or messages that encourage people to buy the product. Companies that produce alcohol spend a lot of time and money creating images that make drinking alcohol seem attractive. The message they give is that alcohol will make life better.

What the advertisements do not focus on is the harm that too much alcohol can do to the health, success and well-being of an individual, family and community.

Looking closely at alcohol advertisements can help people to:

  • learn how advertising encourages people to buy and drink alcohol
  • understand that advertisements often present ideas about alcohol that are not true
  • find ways to communicate more truthful messages about alcohol to others.

The following activities can be carried out with community groups. They take around two hours, although you might want to arrange other meetings for the last stage.

Identify alcohol advertisements. Ask people to think about the alcohol advertisements that they have seen or heard. Show examples of these, perhaps from the local newspaper. 

Look at the ideas that the companies are selling. To help the discussion, ask questions like… What do you notice about the advertisements? Describe the pictures. Who do you think the advertisements appeal to? How do they want people to think about alcohol? Why?

Look at how the reality of alcohol is often different. Ask the group to think about whether or not the ideas the advertisements are presenting are true. Consider how drinking too much alcohol can affect individuals, families and the entire community.

Create alternative messages about alcohol. Large companies are not the only ones who can advertise. Some community groups are using advertisements as a way to spread information about the harmful effects of alcohol. Ask the group to create new advertisements with their own messages and then share their ideas with the rest of the group. They might want to:

  • write a song or poem about the problems caused by drunkenness in their community
  • draw a picture that could be painted on a wall
  • alter a newspaper advertisement by adding pictures or messages
  • develop a script for a radio advertisement
  • act out a TV advertisement with a new message.

Plan to share the messages. Ask the group to discuss how their ideas can be shared with the community. Maybe they could perform a drama, paint a picture on a wall or ask the radio station for some airtime. For example, a women’s group in India called MASUM wrote a play which noted how politicians and rich land-owners in their area used alcohol to gain control over people. Though they were worried at first about the response they might have, the play was well received and eventually shared on television.

Adapted from Women’s Health Exchange Issue 9, produced by the Hesperian Foundation, 1919 Addison Street, Suite 304, Berkeley, California 94704, USA. E-mail: Website: