The campaign to combat Covid drinking

Taking a mass media approach has helped the Alcohol and Drug Foundation extend its reach for a new campaign to tackle the uptick in drinking during the pandemic

A new campaign from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation has been rolled out with a message urging Australians to examine their drinking habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The integrated campaign, developed by Icon Agency and funded by the Federal Government, is titled ‘Break the Habit’ and aims to highlight that it takes only around 66 days, on average, to form a habit – roughly the amount of time many Australians spent in lockdown.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation head of marketing and communications, Cinzia Marrocco, explained to CMO that data sources, from media stories and many official reports, and wider community availability of alcohol, were indicating an uptick in drinking. “Against the backdrop of Covid, we needed to look at what the response could be,” Marrocco said.

“We developed a behaviour change approach with the aim of getting people to identify increases in drinking during lockdown, and if that was the case, to support them to take steps to reduce the alcohol."

While being at pains to acknowledge to people that this has been an extremely challenging time with the full gamut of issues from health crisis to jobs, economic, home schooling and, while not wanting to blame people, the foundation wanted to get an important message across about change of behaviour leading to new, unhealthy habits. 

The Foundation believes most people are unaware of how quickly the increased drinking habits can take hold with a poll the organisation undertook showing that fewer than 10 per cent of Australians were able to accurately estimate how long it takes to form a habit.

The survey of 1000 Australians also revealed nearly one in five Australians wish they had drunk less alcohol during the lockdown and that a similar number, nearly 20 per cent, want to reduce the amount of alcohol they’ve been consuming recently.

Marrocco said one of the things it wanted people to think about is whether they are drinking a  bit more than they normally would during the week or on the weekends.

“They're perhaps not consciously thinking about how this could have a long-term effect on their health and well being. So helping people to make those assessments on their own,” she said.

The campaign features Professor Terry Bowles, a University of Melbourne habit formation expert, and a case study of a Victorian mum who went from only drinking on weekends or special occasions to drinking daily during lockdown but decided to break that habit. 

As lead integration agency, Icon has worked closely with creative team Campaign Edge and media planner Atomic Media to implement a multi-channel strategy across earned, paid, owned and shared media.   

It started with the Foundation team examining the best way to reach the different stakeholders and target audiences and a multi-channel approach heavy on digital was the way to go. “Digital, social, free-to-air TV, video was the way to go. Going further into TV was a new approach and it provided the opportunity to extend the reach from the other digital channels,” she said.

Within its first 48 hours in market, Break the Habit secured a reach of over 250 million across news and broadcast media, including coverage in the Sunday Herald Sun, West Australian, AAP syndication and dedicated packages across 9 News and 10 News nationwide, Today and Studio 10.

“This campaign has allowed us to expand our reach and to take a mass media approach to extend the message,” Marrocco said.

Targeted at Australians aged 21-51 living in metro regions, the campaign highlights that even small increases to the amount of alcohol you can drink can become harder to shift over time. It encourages people to consider their recent drinking patterns, help them recognise any problem signs and what to do to turn them around. This campaign has had its first run and with further government support will continue to run and keep the avenues open for people to get help.

“It’s not just about providing pathways to assess how much someone might be drinking but looking at what does that actually mean? And if you need more information, how do you get that? And how do you provide clear pathways to get that information. That's sort of the journey that we want people to go on if they're needing to get more information to provide that for them in an easy and accessible way. And I think that this campaign has enabled us to do that,” Marrocco explained.

This campaign, while it has Covid-related drinking as its target, is consistent with the foundation’s overall message and marketing strategy. The wider marketing strategy for the organisation is around having the ultimate goal of reducing and preventing alcohol and other drug-related harm across Australia.

“It really is in line with the organisation and our vision. We have the ultimate goal of reducing and preventing alcohol and other drug harm in Australia and we look to do that through a range of means by informing people and also helping them choose the path of support that’s right for them,” she said.

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