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Australian Alcohol Guidelines 2005


Commonwealth Dept of Health and Ageing

PR Company: 


Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2006 C1 - 10



Executive Summary: 

The Australian Alcohol Guidelines (the Guidelines) were developed to provide Australians with knowledge and understanding that will enable them to enjoy alcohol, if they choose to drink, while avoiding or minimising harmful consequences.


Early in 2005, the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) commissioned Professional Public Relations (PPR) to promote the Guidelines according to a set of strict parameters.


Building on previous campaigns and extensive attitudinal research, the 2005 health promotion of the Guidelines focused on the concept of the Standard Drink (SD). A key element of the multifaceted program was to engage health and alcohol industry stakeholders, as well as the wider community, through the development and distribution of educational materials and merchandise, web-based communication and media activity.

 The program differed from previous campaigns, as its first priority was to actively engage industry members from concept development through to material dissemination and evaluation, thereby maximising the success of the program. The complete list of stakeholders is included in Appendix A.

[Note: the hard copy of this entry is missing from the collection.]

Situation Analysis: 

Alcohol consumption is strongly ingrained in Australian culture, with most Australians considering themselves 'moderate drinkers'.


Since 1987 the Australian Alcohol Guidelines (the Guidelines) have advised Australians how to minimise and avoid the harm associated with excessive alcohol consumption. An initial group of materials about standard drinks, including consumer brochures, coasters and posters was launched in 2003.


Despite past initiatives, Australian drinkers still do not monitor their alcohol consumption, except when planning to drive. There is minimal association between alcohol consumption and its health implications. The 2006 program needed to demonstrate the link between alcohol consumption and its health and social consequences.


The DoHA commissioned PPR to undertake a comprehensive public relations program to put the health consequences of alcohol use on the public agenda.


Opportunity statement


 To partner with the alcohol industry to contribute to the National Alcohol Strategy, by educating Australians on the link between health and alcohol consumption through the promotion of the Australian Alcohol Guidelines and the concept of a 'SD'.


Research was conducted both formally and informally during the planning phase of the campaign, including:

  • SWOT Analysis to determine how public relations could best achieve the
  • DoHA goals. This highlighted the need for substantial stakeholder involvement.


Review of past programs to ascertain the elements for success and opportunity. This research highlighted the need to communicate the complex guidelines in a simple, clear and 'digestible' way.


Attitude research


Review of literature and DoHA consultant recommendations (eg. Blue Moon and Elliott and Shanahan) to inform strategy development. Key findings included:

  • Most people think they are moderate drinkers;
  • Drinkers focus on immediate consequences of alcohol - health is not top of mind;
  • A 'drink' is defined by the container it is in - SD is only used in context of driving;
  • Consumers find it difficult to calculate a SD;
  • Behaviour modification relevant only when planning to drive;
  • Social disgrace, not health, is the major consideration for young people.

Stakeholder research


Interviews with community groups, local government departments, state departments for health, and the Police service to obtain their feedback on previous campaigns and opportunities for engagement in 2005. All groups approached welcomed the opportunity to be involved - recognising this as one of the most critical stages of the program.


Communication audit to understand communication channels and practices within the alcohol industry.


Site visits with alcohol industry leaders to clubs, pubs and liquor stores across NSW, Queensland and Victoria, to gain an understanding of the environments in  hich alcohol is consumed, and the best way to communicate safety messages in these environments.


Media research


Environmental monitoring to observe trends in the alcohol industry and media content analysis of alcohol messaging. This highlighted that drinkdriving messages may be counterproductive to alcohol health messages.


Focus group testing

 Three rounds of focus groups to:

  1. Ascertain people's tendency to monitor their drinking, awareness of SDs, alcohol-free days (AFDs) and the health consequences related to alcohol consumption.
  2. Evaluate creative concepts, in line with people's reactions, recall and uptake of health promotion messages, as well as to assess the primary public's awareness of the size of SDs, likelihood to count SDs and likelihood to interact with collateral materials developed for the health promotion.
  3. Evaluate modified creative concepts, following focus group and alcohol industry feedback.

Target Policies: 

Target Publics



Australian alcohol consumers

  • Men and women aged over 18, from all states and territories, who consume alcohol either regularly or occasionally were targeted to promote awareness and behaviour change.
  •  Adults were segmented by age (18-35 years and 35 years plus) as research showed substantial differences in attitudes to their health.


Alcohol industry

  • The involvement and endorsement of industry association members and leaders was sought, to help encourage support from the industry.
  • Owners and managers of pubs, clubs and liquor stores were also targeted with educational materials to display/use on the premises.


  • Pharmacists displayed and distributed materials in their stores, reinforcing the link between alcohol and health

Local government

  • This would ensure messages would be spread throughout the local council, via public libraries, at community education initiatives or days even through public toilets.


  • Seen as authoritative groups police were targeted as they could extend the reach of the initiative, by using materials for local 'shows' and also through public and licensed premises.


  • Australian media interested in health and community issues.
  • All media (print, broadcast and electronic) which may reach members of the primary and moderating publics.

Communication Strategy: 

It was important that the program did not look like a typical government program, and that it was not perceived to be dictating behaviour. The multi-tiered initiative involved a number of strategic considerations, including:


 Health promotion

  • Communicate the complex Guidelines through simple, clear and relevant messages.
  • Focus on the SD, so drinkers know how to measure their alcohol consumption.
  • Motivate drinkers to consider the amount they drink for health purposes, not just for drink-driving considerations.
  • Emphasise the long-term consequences of alcohol, rather than the shortterm consequences.

In order to focus attention on the Guidelines, encourage industry participation and provide a platform for media coverage, PPR created Alcohol and Your Health Week, which took place in October.


Educational materials and merchandise


Produce materials which were interesting and would be taken home, as 70 per cent of alcohol consumption occurs in the home. The materials can be seen in Appendix A.

  • Actively engage key stakeholder groups in the program so they would actively distribute the materials.
  • Reach Australian adults in a format and venue where they are most receptive to SD messages.

Creative Concepts

 The final concepts and their rationales were:

  • Don’t Lose Your Standards – used humour, a play on words and universal washroom symbols to appeal to younger drinkers, focusing on the immediate social consequences of alcohol misuse.
  • Count Your Drinks For Better Health – linked counting ‘SDs’ with health consequences in a positive way and provided appeal to older audiences who typically count their drinks only when driving.

Key messages 

  • Counting drinks is important for everyday health, not just for driving.
  • Drinking alcohol affects your long-term health.
  • Women should have no more than two SDs each day.
  • Men should have no more than four SDs each day.
  • Everybody should have one or more alcohol free days each week.
  • Excessive drinking is not socially acceptable (This message was aimed at younger audiences).



 Based on industry feedback, Alcohol and Your Health Week was held after sporting grand finals and before the Melbourne Cup and the start of the traditional "drinking season".


Dialogue with community members 

  • Pouring demonstrations conducted in pubs, clubs and liquor stores in 12 areas throughout Australia, educated community members about SDs.
  • www.alcohol.gov.au website redeveloped to complement the education materials and provide an additional forum for message exposure. Materials could also be ordered from the website.
  • Education materials and merchandise (stockpiled at National Mailing and Marketing) distributed through community groups, alcohol environments, and businesses communicated the SD and health messages.

Dialogue with alcohol industry 

  • Letters were mailed to industry association members requesting support and participation, and containing information about the Guidelines.
  • Meetings held in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane to obtain feedback on creative concepts and inform about program progress.
  • Promotions run in industry publications and newsletters.
  • Distribution mailing lists were sourced from the Australian Local Government Association, the Department of Gaming and Racing, the Liquor Merchants Association of Australia and various state-based bodies. Additionally, liquor stores in the Coles and Woolworths chains were targeted and materials fed out through internal meetings and distribution networks.

Dialogue with Australian media


 PPR communicated with selected media in the following ways:

  • Media briefing breakfast
  • Personal invitation from the Hon. Christopher Pyne, Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing invited targeted journalists to be media advocates on alcohol-related issues.
  • Held at The Establishment, this briefing drew attention to the government's agenda to reduce alcohol harm, generated early interest in Alcohol and Your Health Week and showed, under embargo, the program materials and merchandise.
  • Media campaign around Alcohol and Your Health Week
  • Media Alert distributed to talkback radio, and followed-up with interview opportunities.
  • Media Release issued by Mr Pyne announcing the Week.
  • Localised Media Releases distributed to local media where pouring demonstrations took place, and followed-up with photograph and interview opportunities.




The uptake of materials was overwhelming:

  • 78 per cent of alcohol industry association members ordered materials.
  • Materials ordered by 2,358 stores, clubs and community centres around Australia.
  • The vast majority of these stakeholders ordered multiples of a number of items, and often ordered above the specified limits.
  • Numerous stakeholders flagged that they would like to use materials for future initiatives, eg. Queensland bus drivers.

Due to the high stakeholder demand, the government ran out of stock of many materials early in the initiative, so the DoHA is currently re-printing materials (sometimes at a rate of 500 per cent) to satisfy the back-log of orders. A breakdown of the quantities of materials produced is shown in Appendix A. 

Relationship Building

  • 12 alcohol industry associations involved in consultation process. (See Appendix A for complete list of all stakeholders consulted).
  • 100 per cent of alcohol association representatives with whom PPR liaised, expressed a desire to participate in future initiatives.

Media Coverage:


The following media coverage was obtained:

  • Television - 41 stories/mentions
  • Radio news - 81 mentions
  • Talk back radio - 14 mentions
  • Print - 4 stories.
  • Media briefing attracted a strong turnout of 17 journalists.
  • Coverage highlights included a pouring demonstration by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne on 'Mornings with Kerri- Anne' (Channel Nine) and detailed coverage on Seven News.




Degree of Success

1. To educate Australians adults on the link between alcohol consumption and health by November 30, 2005. This message was communicated through the media to an audience estimated at more than 1,300,000*. More people were exposed to this message by the materials and merchandise. This message
Was communicated to at least 1 in 6 Australian adults+.
2. To raise the awareness of Australian adults, about SDs by November 30, 2005. This message was communicated through the media to an audience estimated at more than 1,300,000*. More people were exposed to this message by the materials and merchandise. This message
Was communicated
to at least 1 in
6 Australian adults+.
3. To provide community groups and alcohol providers with 3,000,000 pieces of program collateral by November 30, 2005. More than 5,500,000 pieces of collateral were distributed before Alcohol and Your Health Week. 183% successful.
4. To establish working relationships with five  alcohol industry groups before May 2005. In the initial stages of the program, PPR liaised extensively with six leading industry groups (See Appendix A). 120% successful.
5. To encourage alcohol association involvement, with 50 per cent of
members up-taking materials before
Alcohol and Your Health Week.
Feedback from association leaders indicated that 78% of members ordered materials before this time. 156% successful

* Note: PPR recognises that it is problematic to assume that all of this audience understood and actively processed the messages communicated through the media.

+ This assessment is based on information that 7.8 million Australian adults consume alcohol.

Furthermore, PPR co-ordinated an evaluative feedback session with alcohol industry leaders and the DoHA, from which came feedback encouraging the initiative to continue past 2005, with many stakeholders advocating the importance of access to informative and attractive materials.