Comparing alcohol harm reduction advertisements on their ability to motivate behaviour change among adult drinkers

Kimberley Dunstone, Emily Brennan, Sarah Durkin, Helen Dixon, Simone Pettigrew, Michael Slater, Melanie Wakefield

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 48


Objective: Aside from the success of campaigns to reduce drink-driving, there is limited evidence to date on the effectiveness of more general alcohol harm reduction campaigns. Given the wide range of harms associated with alcohol consumption, the primary aim of the current study was to identify advertisements with the greatest potential to motivate weekly drinkers to engage in a range of different behaviours to reduce the harms associated with alcohol consumption. A second aim was to compare advertisement performance across audience subgroups including high and low risk drinkers.

Method: N=2,174 Australian adult weekly drinkers were randomly assigned to view and rate three of 83 advertisements sourced from English-speaking countries (on average, 79 participants rated each advertisement). Immediately after viewing each advertisement, participants reported whether they felt motivated to engage in eight different behaviours to minimise the harms associated with alcohol consumption (each rated on a five point scale: 1 “strongly disagree” to 5 “strongly agree”). Advertisements were assigned to one of seven groups based on the behaviour the advertisement was most clearly/strongly trying to elicit. Within each subset of advertisements, they were ranked from most to least motivating using predicted means (adjusted for demographics and alcohol consumption) of audience ratings of how motivated they felt to engage in the behaviour targeted by the advertisement. For each subset of ads, an additional set of stratified models examined advertisement rankings within the separate age, sex and drinking risk status subgroups.

Results: The average motivation scores ranged between 3.15 to 3.90 on the five-point scale for each behavioural target, indicating all ads were on average perceived as somewhat motivating. The most motivating advertisements were identified within each of the seven subsets. The rank order of advertisements varied somewhat in the stratified analyses, however there was substantial overlap in the top-ranked advertisements across younger and older adults, males and females, and high and low risk drinkers among each of the seven subsets of advertisements. In addition, the mean level of motivation did not differ significantly between any of the audience subgroups for four of the subsets.

Conclusion: In the context of scarce resources for health communication campaigns, jurisdictions can be guided by these findings as they develop and broadcast alcohol harm reduction campaigns. By recycling existing alcohol harm reduction campaign messages that have the greatest potential to motivate adult drinkers to engage in a range of behaviours to reduce harm from alcohol, jurisdictions can be more confident in the capacity of their campaign to generate positive behaviour change, and can direct limited resources into achieving sufficient levels of exposure at the population level. The findings also indicate that a whole-of-population approach may be viable for these alcohol harm reduction campaigns, reaching not only those most at risk but also the broader population.