Underage drinking campaign

28 Nov 13


In a country where one in two teenagers in the average home has experimented with  alcohol, it’s imperative that those who are concerned with the unacceptable levels of underage drinking engage with teenagers in a way that best speaks to them.

The You Decide campaign, which first launched in February 2012 with interactive roadshows at schools, has to date has reached almost 500 000 teenagers all over the country. The   programme was created by the Department of Trade and Industry (the DTI), the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) and South African Breweries (SAB) in a successful public private partnership.

More recently, You Decide has amplified its school programme with a new above-the-line campaign that makes use of multiple channels, in multiple languages with multiple images that speak directly to the youth. The campaign includes TV, radio, digital and social media as well as billboards and an ambassador programme.

The above-the-line campaign remains true to the original You Decide messaging and the positive psychology behind the message – “You Decide”.

“Unfortunately peer pressure is a reality and teenagers are afraid they will be labelled ‘uncool’ if they say no to drinking, ” says Melusi Tshabalala, executive creative director at MojoMotherussia, the advertising agency responsible for the campaign.

“We discussed this at length with SAB and decided the best way to combat underage drinking was not to lecture teenagers but rather to show them real-life teenagers doing cool stuff which does not involve alcohol and instead, provides them with a solution, ” he said.

SAB’s Corporate Affairs and Transformation executive director Vincent Maphai says: “We realised that simply telling youngsters not to drink was never going to work so instead we designed a programme that gives teenagers the facts about underage drinking and the tools for them to resist peer pressure and make more positive choices in their lives.”

“You can rock or you can drink” encourages teenagers to celebrate their youth rather than get involved in social activities that involve drinking with peers.  It focuses on what interests young people, coupled with activities that require little to no equipment to take disadvantaged backgrounds into consideration.

“Having actors in the adverts would have defeated the purpose, ” said Tshabalala. “We wanted the campaign to be credible to an audience group highly attuned to authenticity, so we went out scouting and found real under 18s just having fun.”

“Equally important, the You Decide message needs to reach adults as well. According to a SAB Facebook poll, almost a third (28%) of adults think it is okay for teenagers to drink. This is not ok, ” Maphai said.  

Parents and adults also have to take responsibility for underage drinking and have conversations with their teenagers, nieces and nephews, and teenagers within their circles about why they should not drink.

The new campaign seems to be working. In the first two months of the online campaign more than 16, 900 people have followed the You Decide Facebook page almost 50 0000 people have downloaded the You Decide app on MXit. Engagement rates at 58% are also much higher than normally seen.

“With You Decide going so well, it makes one wonder what would become of responsible drinking campaigns like this one should the ban on alcohol advertising go ahead?” asked Tshabalala.

Current legislative proposals make no distinction between responsible drinking advertising and general alcohol advertising. The You Decide campaign may very well be one of the casualties.

“If changes to the legislation remove the necessary platforms for communication, it becomes extraordinarily difficult for committed companies to use their resources and assist in encouraging the responsible use of alcohol or in preventing underage consumption, ” said Tshabalala.

You Decide above-the-line campaign is available online and both the TV advertisement and the behind the scenes footage can be viewed at http://youtu.be/2j5O3ng2hME.


Twitter: @DoStuffZA

Facebook.com/You Decide


BELOW: The BMX print advertisement is one of the six You Decide print advertisements, where real-life teenagers have been used to create authenticity.

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