Saturday, June 21, 2008

To Drink Or Not To Drunk, Heavily

Australia is a binge-drinking nation. Apparently. That's binge-drinking where 'to binge' now means sipping back three or four mildly boozy drinks in an hour. Or a wine-tasting session as it's also known.

Times have changed.

Binge-drinking used to mean chugging half a large bottle of cheap scotch or burboun just before you stumbled into the party or nightclub, and then finishing yourself off with whatever was handy, and didn't have cigarette butts floating in it.

The Rudd government wants to reduce binge-drinking, so the 'Don't Do It!' ad campaigns begin.

The first ad tells us that if you have boozy barbecues with your mates in your suburban backyard and you tell your kid to go in and get dad a beer from the fridge, he'll grow up to have boozy backyard barbecues and will also tell his own kid to go and get dad a beer from the fridge. And so the terrible cycle of beer-fetching passes down through the generations.

At first I thought the message was that too much booze will make you too lazy to go and get your own frigging beer. Or that children who always do what their parents tell them will grow up to become bossy clones of their piss-addled dads.

And why is it that anti-booze and anti-drug ads always seem to be centred on rural or suburban Australians, living under grey skies or washed-out flourescent lighting?

Why no ads showing rich celebrities doing dunny lines of gak at an awards show? Or a politician downing eight martinis in a flash city restaurant before weaving back to parliament? Or the boss of a financial mega-corporation keeping the board waiting while he hides in his executive toilet and tries to empty a tall glass of vodka into his mouth with trembling hands?

You can do anti-drug ads without grimming the shit of the people you're trying to reach and hopefully teach something worthwhile. Here's one example :

Discouraging binge-drinking in Australia is a particularly tough mission, though something with the gloss, humour and style of the one above would be a good start.

A lot of people binge drink because they enjoy getting that utterly smashed and bombed, the faster the better. A far smaller number gulp down six or seven beers, for three or four hours, because they don't like themselves much and they find this kind of self-punishment satisfying. It's next to impossible to convince hard-core alcoholics to do anything they don't want to do, or anything much at all except drink.

But most Australians binge-drink because it feels good. So how do you stop those who enjoy it? Preach moderation? Or go the illegal drugs line and waste millions of dollars telling people who love ecstasy because it makes them feel absolutely awesome that they're really not having fun at all?

If it was my gig to do an ad to discourage people from drinking heavily, particularly now, I'd show someone coming home from the pub, falling against the table as they empty out their pockets, and wallet to discover they have no money left. Just a bit of silver shrapnel. Way overdue credit card and utilities bills on the table catch the eye. They go to make something quick to eat. Nothing to eat in the fridge, the cupboards are next to bare. The milk in the fridge is lumpy. The frustration and hunger is obvious.

They go for a piss. A stream of gold coins arc into the toilet bowl.

Then they puke.

A nearly endless stream of $20 and $50 notes geyser from the mouth, the toilet overflows with cash.

You might not get them to stop binge-drinking, but they'll have a hard time forgetting what they keep blowing all their money on.