05 Jun, 2014 Last updated: 16 Apr, 2015

By Jerril Rechter, VicHealth CEO

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter

At the end of last year, VicHealth set out on an ambitious journey. We were tasked with designing a campaign to challenge the culture of drinking in Victoria.

As part of a broader Victorian Government alcohol and drug strategy, we wanted to shift the acceptability of intoxication among Victorians, with a focus on our riskiest drinkers aged 16 to 29.

Efforts to reduce excessive alcohol consumption in Australia have primarily focused on negative messaging about behaviour and consequences. Despite these efforts, we’re seeing a polarised drinking culture.

There is a slowing down of drinking rates among the general population, being led by teenagers who are abstaining or delaying drinking, but a rise among certain sub groups, suggesting that some drinkers simply aren’t getting the message.

They may not connect with confronting images of young people lying in gutters, violently lashing out, or stumbling about in traffic. So we needed to try something different.

The alcohol culture change program offered a valuable opportunity to take a positive approach, to acknowledge the unease about how alcohol is used in Victoria, and to harness that concern to help young people shape a shared vision of a Victoria where alcohol isn’t integral to our celebrations.

Nationally, 78 per cent of us agree that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse suggesting that the broader community is ready for change.

We can’t tell people what to do or how to live their lives and expect them to make changes. But we can encourage community discussion about alcohol, the role it has in our lives, and begin that process of contemplating and ultimately challenging the social norms that excuse and sometimes even celebrate drunkenness.

And so we came up with the Name that Point campaign.

This essentially involved a website, advertising, digital and traditional media, community and government partnerships and marketing collateral such as coasters, post cards and posters.

The campaign aimed to bring questions about drinking culture out into the open and give people a forum to start developing a shared language around alcohol and examining what it means to us and why.

Each week we asked Victorians for their views on their drinking behaviours, how they avoid intoxication, whether they support abstinence and the perceived benefits and negatives from drinking alcohol. We asked 67 questions in total and collected the data.

We also offered $5000 grants for organisations who could help spread the word of Name That Point.

It’s fair to say that Name that Point really did exceed our expectations in terms of exposure and user engagement with the campaign.
By April, we had surpassed all of our targets. Here are some of the figures:

  • 45,923 unique visits to the website 
  • 20,735 return visits to the website 
  • 380 media articles and radio/TV/online items 
  • 143,033 YouTube views

So after receiving 1800 entries and naming 12 finalists, in April this year, a winner was announced. 

The winner was 24-year-old Michael Sanders from Fitzroy, who won with The ‘Chill’ Point’ – which had the most votes from the public.

Michael described this point as: the point in the night where you have to chill out, reassess and have clarity so you can continue your night in a safe and fun manner.

But of course the winning name wasn’t the only point of this exercise. The purpose behind it was to involve young people in a non-judgemental discussion about our alcohol culture and to give them a place to share their experiences and to challenge the prevailing social norms that drive the practice of drinking to get drunk. We know that standard drink measures aren’t the best indication of intoxication. So instead, it’s really up to the drinker to make a judgement call about when they’ve reached ‘that point’.

An evaluation of Name that Point, which included a survey of people who took part in the campaign, found it was effective in reaching our target audience and prompting them to think about alcohol and its place in their lives.

While it wasn’t the purpose of the campaign, we were very pleased to see that a significant proportion of users – three in 10 – reported they had modified their behaviour and drank less alcohol as a result.

In addition:

  • Six out of 10 website visitors were in our target age group (16-29), showing that this campaign also appealed to a wider audience. 
  • The majority of people made multiple visits to the website – in fact, the average was 5 visits per person. Almost one in 10 made more than 20 visits. 
  • Seven out of 10 people who visited the website submitted a name and read about Name That Point. 
  • Six in 10 indicated that after visiting Name That Point they put serious thought into the drinking culture of Victorians and the drinking habits of their friends. 
  • Those who visited the site more often were more likely to reflect on their own drinking habits.

People who got involved with our campaign described it as a realistic, entertaining, non-judgemental and thought-provoking. They felt that it wasn’t trying to stop people drinking, but to be more sensible about it.

That’s not to say we didn’t receive some criticism either. Some people were unhappy that it wasn’t for a national audience. Others found it a little difficult to navigate and understand the competition requirements. And some said there were too many emails about the campaign. 

But overall, these were very positive results that will absolutely be valuable for the development of Phase 2 of the alcohol culture change project, which is currently in development and will be rolled out in August.

- Jerril