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Centre for Behavioural
Research in Cancer

Television advertising to promote NHMRC guidelines for low risk alcohol consumption

In preliminary studies, we conducted a content analysis of all English language television ads about short- or long-term alcohol harms and used an advertisement response rating study to identify the ads that drinkers identified as being most motivating to reduce their consumption.

In the main study, we compared the immediate effects on drinkers of television advertisements focusing upon short- versus long-term harms of alcohol with and without the inclusion of low-risk drinking guidelines. We employed a between-participants on-line experiment, with random assignment to view:

(a) alcohol product advertisements (ALC control);

(b) advertisements unrelated to alcohol (NON-ALC control);

(c) advertisements featuring short-term harms (STH) of alcohol;

(d) advertisements featuring STH plus a STH guideline (STH+G);

(e) advertisements featuring long-term harms (LTH); or

(f) advertisements featuring LTH plus a LTH guideline (LTH+G).


A total of 3718 drinkers in Australia aged 18-64 years were involved in the study. After exposure to STH+G or LTH+G advertisements, participants were more likely to estimate correctly rather than overestimate drinking levels associated with harm, compared with those exposed to each other condition. Drinkers exposed to STH conditions were more likely to intend to reduce next-week alcohol consumption than those exposed to ALC control and NON-ALC control conditions; a similar pattern was observed for intentions to avoid alcohol. Drinkers exposed to LTH conditions were also more likely than drinkers exposed to ALC or NON-ALC controls to intend to avoid and reduce alcohol in the next week. Additionally, drinkers exposed to LTH+G were more likely to intend to reduce drinking than those exposed to LTH advertisements without guidelines. Response patterns for low- and high-risk drinkers by condition were similar. Alcohol harm television advertisements increase intentions to reduce alcohol consumption among both low- and high-risk drinkers. The addition of low-risk drinking guidelines can enhance these effects for advertisements featuring long-term harms and improve estimates of both short- and long-term harmful drinking levels.  A further mediation analysis demonstrated the pathways through which pairing alcohol harm reduction advertisements with messages promoting low-risk drinking guidelines can increase drinkers’ intentions to reduce their alcohol consumption and compliance with low-risk drinking guidelines.

CBRC staff

Prof Melanie Wakefield, A/Prof Helen Dixon, Prof Sarah Durkin, Dr Emily Brennan, Kimberley Dunstone, Dr Danielle Schoenaker


Prof Michael Slater (Ohio State University, USA), Prof Simone Pettigrew (Curtin University)


NHMRC Project Grant #1070689


2014 - 2021