I don’t know what to make of the above advert, which I have seen a few times on my travels on London Underground. I am someone who is not a fan of alcohol. I don’t drink alcohol at all and am always wary of people who drink to excess. Alcohol is something that makes me very uncomfortable. So you would think that anything that encouraged people to drink less would be something that I might favour. But that advert troubles me. In part, I think it is because the advert is based around looks and image. I’m not sure anyone would aspire to look bedraggled like in the advert, but it concerns me that looks are a way by which we should judge ourselves or that others should judge us. I think it is the judgment that I see in the advert that troubles me.
I also don’t like the stereotypes that seem to underpin the campaign. What it says to me is that the underlying message (beyond the one of not drinking to excess) is that men are meant to look one particular way and women are meant to look another and there should be no ambiguity in that. But surely there is a lot of grey in how people look, or choose to look, and not all women look like ‘typical’ women or all men look like ‘typical’ men – not that I have any idea what ‘typical’ actually means. Perhaps it just reflects a view that as a society we are quite shallow and how we look is something that motivates us in many different and unexpected parts of our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important that people are aware of the social, physical and emotional impact of alcohol consumption. I don’t have a problem with that being highlighted. I just feel distinctly uncomfortable with it being highlighted in this way. I would also ask if men could interpret this advert as telling them that “if you don’t drink like a man, you drink like a girl” and encourage them to drink more? I think this an unlikely scenario, but that is actually the flip side of the message in that advert.
Maybe it has achieved its aim by making me think – although as a non-drinker, I’m probably not really the target audience.