Raheem Akingbolu reviews the various campaigns being promoted to control underage drinking and urges stakeholders in the larger alcoholic manufacturing industry to key into the campaign to nip the ugly development in the bud.
Campaign against underage drinking is as old as the history of alcoholic drinking globally. In Nigeria, government through various agencies has consistently mapped out strategies with the understanding of spirit and beer manufacturers to step up the campaign. Among other ways, stakeholders' engagement, advertising regulation and sensitisation campaigns in schools and places of worship have been deplored well to reach children and their parents on the dangers of early consumption of alcohol.
In what looks like a self-regulatory effort, the Distillers and Blenders Association of Nigeria (DIBAN) appears to have taken the gauntlet to champion the course. DIBAN, under the auspices of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), has stepped up its advocacy campaigns to promote responsible consumption of alcoholic beverages while discouraging its sale to users below the age of 18.
Beyond warning inscriptions on product packaging, the association has increased the number of its sensitisation billboards across the major cities of the country as well as increasing its advertisement jingles on radio to warn children against alcoholic consumption. On a general note, the association has also intensified effort to preach responsible drinking among adults. For instance, as one approaches Lagos, a massive billboard is erected along Berger with the inscription; 'Drink Responsibly... Do not abuse alcohol'. One of the specific campaigns targeted at minors is deplored through bus branding on the popular BRT busses in Lagos; 'Too Young to Drink... Don't sell alcohols to anyone under 18 years'
Meanwhile, in a letter dated 6th May, 2019 and addressed to the Director General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration
and Control by the association, titled; Status Report: Advocacy and messaging on alcohol intake by minors and underage, the association stated that in Abuja, a total number of 2 billboards were deployed along Airport Road by Gosa facing traffic to Airport and along Abuja Keffi road by Nyanya Market with an estimated number of 750,050 and 770,000 being exposed to its message till date, respectively. It was also stated that the association branded five buses in Abuja plying Area 1; Gudu; Gwarimpa; Berger; Banex plaza; Aya, NICON junction to create awareness with an estimated number of eyeball at 882,000 within the time of review. The campaign is billed to run for a period of Six (6) months from March 11, 2019 to September 10, 2019 in the aforementioned locations. The letter was signed by the association's chairman, Patrick Anegbe, an engineer.
According to THISDAY findings, the letter to the NAFDAC boss was prompted by the report of the Committee on the Spirit drink regulations constituted on Wednesday 19th December, 2018 by the former Minister of Health Professor Isaac Folorunsho Adewole. The last month letter by DIBAN was the first stage of the association's effort to present its advocacy/messaging campaigns based on mutually agreed strategies to curb the problems.
To effectively power the various campaigns, DIBAN had engaged two marketing communication Agencies; Bluebird Marketing Communications Ltd on the outdoor campaign and Brand Believers Communication Ltd for radio campaigns.
The brief given to Bluebirds Marketing Communications was to educate and enlighten the target audience and the general public on responsible consumption of alcohol. Key messages were created with the central idea "Make a difference", "Get involved" and other Sub themes that were deployed on billboards and BRT buses, "Drink Responsibly","Do not Abuse Alcohol", "-18, Too young to drink, "Don't sell Alcohol to Anyone under 18 years".
With the way the campaigns have been run, it is easy to conclude that the channels under the association's purview are Billboard and Transit Media (Bus Branding) in Lagos and Abuja.
In the letter, it was pointed out that in Lagos, two billboards were deployed at Berger, Lagos Ibadan Expressway facing traffic to Lagos and Isolo Road by Lagos State Polytechnic facing traffic from Daleko Market in Mushin to Isolo with an estimated number of 1,250,000 and 1,000,000 respectively being exposed to the message till date. Also, in Lagos a total number of 10 buses plying Ikorodu - Marina route (Ikorodu, Mile 12, Ketu, Ojota, Palmgrove, Onipanu, Fadeyi, Marina, TBS) were branded to help create awareness, with an estimated number of eyeballs at 576,000 within the time of review.
Through Brand Believers Communications Ltd, the association has also embarked on a Pan-Nigeria ongoing radio campaign. The CSR radio campaign sensitises consumers about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and advocating moderation as far as the subject matter is concerned. So far, the agency has presented four campaign themes tagged "Drink moderately", "Health is Wealth", "Enjoy life to the fullest" and "Don't mix". The preferred radio with the theme (You get mind) came from 'Health is Wealth' direction.
Perhaps the beauty of the various campaigns is in their domestication, as they are aired in English, Pidgin and local languages. Lagos and Abuja stations are currently running the pidgin version of the radio tagged 'You get mind' while Kaduna stations are running the Hausa version of the pidgin radio.
The campaign runs every Wednesday to Friday (morning and evening) as consumers begin countdown to weekends when social activities are usually at peak period. The campaign is to sensitise consumers on the need to drink moderately as they prepare or commence their social activities.
In summary, daily audience population for Lagos stations has been put at 4,584,034, while Abuja and Kaduna audience population are; 1,017,168 and is 2,923,116, respectively. The cumulative daily audience population across Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna are 8,524,318.
The campaign is said to have been on for five weeks with 713 spots so far. It has 2,743 spots remaining and they are spread across 19 weeks. Total campaign duration is 24 weeks (6 months; March 26 to September 6, 2019) and 3,456 spots spread across the stations.
Further findings have however confirmed that a total campaign value at commencement was N42, 500, 000.00, with payment of N29, 000,000.00 already made, an outstanding of N13, 500,000.00 to be made at the end of campaign.
The letter went further by analyzing how the second stage of the campaign, which is expected to commence in October 2019, will look like. First, under education and training, a massive training of distributors and retailers on the need to avoid sales of alcoholic beverages to underage individuals, will be given priority. This, according to the association, will require the development of an appropriate training manual; the manual will be in major Nigeria languages.
Besides, there will also be advocacy campaign programmes in collaboration with Civil Society Groups, under the supervision of NAFDAC in order to strengthen the efforts towards reducing alcohol consumption, underage drinking and improving responsible drinking. This will also include collaboration with other regulatory agencies to check access to the products.
The third phase of the campaign, through which DIBAN will engage the National Identity Management commission (NIMC), is expected to commence in March, 2020. The collaboration will enable the two bodies to work out how the compulsory possession of the National Identity card, which includes information on age, will be the basis to provide evidence of age before sale. It is also expected that the third phase will join force with government to identify the unregulated producers whose products are essentially substandard and can be dangerous to human health.
In a recent statement issued by DIBAN and signed by Anegbe, the association, which represents one of the oldest and thriving indigenous industries in Nigeria, had pointedly admitted that the body had taken up the advocacy as a Corporate Social Responsibility through outdoors messaging on Billboards, Mass Transit Buses and radio campaigns to sensitise consumers about the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption and advocating moderation. Some of the campaign themes include: "Drink moderately", "Health is Wealth", "Enjoy life to the fullest" and "Don't mix".
"As part of DIBAN's Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, we will also embark on various advocacy campaigns, which will include massive training of our distributors and retailers on the need to avoid sales of alcoholic beverages to underage. This will require the development of appropriate training manual, which will be in major Nigerian languages. To restrict access of the underage to Alcohol Beverages, the industry will strengthen the supervision of distributors and retailers.
"In addition, we will employ advocacy campaign programmes in order to strengthen the efforts towards reducing alcohol consumption, underage drinking and improving responsible drinking in collaboration with civil society groups, under the supervision of National Agency for Food Drug Administration Control, Consumer Protection Agency and Federal Ministry of Health.
On the association's future plans, the statement said DIBAN anticipated the third phase of its campaign to commence in March 2020. This phase, according to the statement, will engage the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) in working out the modality for the enforcement of compulsory possession of the National Identity card, which includes information on age as basis for age verification before sale of Alcoholic Beverages.
"The industry will continue its drive to help regulatory agencies identify the unregulated producers whose products are essentially substandard and can be dangerous to human health. DIBAN will in addition deploy robust social media platforms to reach out to the target audience while one of our member companies is working on the roll out of the highly impactful, school enlightenment program-SMASHED," the statement added.
With the development, it is obvious that a clear articulation of potential harms associated with underage drinking to help legitimise underage drinking laws, along with their rigorous enforcement, may help reduce underage drinking.