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Hi, I'm a Master of Wine (MW) having passed in 1997. I am about to open a wine shop in DĂșn Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library and this is my wine blog. There should be no conflict of interest between my work with The Wine Library and the opinions expressed herein but I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy. From June 2013 until May 2017 I was the Retail Manager for The Wicklow Wine Company. I was a member of the Council of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events, Trips and Governance Committees Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Inferences

There is a report in Drinks Business (DB) about a recent survey carried out in the UK in relation to alcohol advertising and a number of conclusions are drawn. Now, the DB article doesn't give us a link to the survey so the methodology is unclear but I am somewhat sceptical about the conclusions. Apparently, "G2 Joshua surveyed 2,000 people [in relation to a proposed ban on alcohol advertising] and discovered that 90% of them would drink the same amount should a ban be introduced." Later, we are told: “Alcohol advertising is already heavily regulated and therefore in reality, as our research indicates, any complete ban on the practice would have minimal effect,” said Bobby Hui, executive planning director at G2 Joshua. Why be sceptical?

Well, let's ask ourselves first who were the 2,000 people surveyed? If they are existing drinkers then the intention to drink as much as they currently do is perfectly sensible. In others words, what else would they answer. But the question should not be aimed at existing drinkers but at non-drinkers. If they answered that they would be likely to start drinking even with a ban then the conclusion might hold water but we aren't told whether the 2,000 people surveyed are heavy, moderate or non-drinkers so we can't really assess the efficacy of the survey, as reported in DB.

The next area to consider is what was the question text; were people asked straight out: would you drink as much if a ban was introduced as you currently drink? Most people would answer yes to that question. If people were asked: did advertising affect your choice of drink at any stage? I would imagine that many people would also answer yes. However, the DB article does not include any such useful background information.



The Loi Evin is 20 years old this year so the topic is doubly apt. Consumption of wine is down in France and that drop has certainly coincided with the advertising ban, but I would still wonder if there is any causal link between the two. Consumption was declining anyway and health concerns (as well as belated enforcement of drink driving legislation in the last 7 years) have all contributed to this decline. It would be useful to know who commissioned the survey - was it paid for by the drinks industry or simply undertaken independently? The industry spends a lot of time telling is that advertising doesn't work (i.e. it does not drive consumption patterns) so this survey will be one more tool in their armoury. The fact that it suggests what they have always said (not consumption, just brand choice) is a remarkably apt piece of research at a time when many governments are considering the introduction of bans, minimum pricing etc. 


I recently heard someone from the industry on Irish radio stating that there was very little research showing that minimum pricing had any effect. A quick Google search found a number of different studies, one of which being a meta-analysis of 200+ studies, all showing that minimum pricing had precisely the effect desired by governments. Even though I work within the industry I am incredibly sceptical of any statements they make in relation to health and responsibility and this survey, as reported by DB, is no different. Until someone actually publishes the survey and its methodology fully and freely, then the infernece I will draw is one of bias.

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