Commissioned by The Century Council under contract with the Ad Council, the research was conducted by the independent consulting firm Egg Strategy.
Among the findings, the research exposed different types of college drinkers for the first time; took an in-depth look at the “type and tone” of messages that would cause a reconsideration of behavior; and examined media use as a channel for change.
“This research is a critical step in the ongoing fight to reduce overconsumption on college campuses. By recognizing and respecting the individual voices of the students, we begin to understand how best to target messaging to reduce dangerous overconsumption among college students,” indicated Richard Band, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Egg Strategy.
Among the key insights brought to light by students are:
- The term binge drinking is not relevant to students nor do they “buy into” the commonly used five drink/four drink definition;
- Communications campaigns should highlight the feelings of overconsumption, not the math. Students don’t count standard drinks;
- Peer-based messaging works only if it’s really about a student’s peers, rather than an assortment of students from around campus;
- In general, scare tactics are not effective at connecting with students and are less likely to inspire behavior change;
- Messages that influence the situational factors surrounding a night of drinking are more readily accepted than those that overtly seek reductions in consumption.
“The research presented by the Ad Council demonstrates that students don’t recognize binge drinking as a problem. What’s more, students want to be spoken to with respect, understanding, caring, encouragement, and authenticity. Who can blame them? These findings provide a valuable opportunity to all of us to review and reinvigorate current binge drinking programs at every level,” said Susan Molinari, Chairman of The Century Council.
The study found that messages should be delivered when the students are not drinking through campus newspapers, online media, and take a further step of harnessing the collective “approval” of social networking to validate and endorse positive behavior. It also identified other opportunities to deliver related messaging.
“The research released today will be extremely useful to campuses dealing with overconsumption of alcohol by students – many of whom arrive with drinking habits firmly established,” said American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad. “Whether you are persuaded by either societal norms or enforcement philosophy when approaching this complex problem, a ‘one size fits all’ model will not be enough. I urge college presidents and student affairs professionals to review this important research to see how it might be used to improve alcohol awareness programs on their own campus.”
The Ad Council/Egg Strategy presentation can be downloaded on our Fighting College Binge Drinking page.
It will also be available in the next few days on the Higher Ed National Meeting’s website.
In addition to the release of this research at the Higher Ed National Meeting, The Century Council hosted a briefing for Congressional Staff earlier today to educate attendees on this important topic. To learn more about this comprehensive, multi-faceted research effort, visit the “Fighting College Binge Drinking” section of our website, which is designed to provide a better understanding of this issue from the perspective of different members of the campus community.
For more than a decade, The Century Council has been developing resources for colleges, communities, parents and students designed to address alcohol abuse on campus. In 2009 The Century Council sponsored the American Advertising Federation’s National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC). Participating teams were challenged to develop a comprehensive communications campaign to decrease dangerous over consumption of alcohol by college students. Over 140 teams representing colleges/universities across the nation presented their ideas on how to deal with college binge drinking.
In 2010, The Century Council provided grants to four major universities to implement and further explore potential effectiveness of the student-generated campaigns presented at NSAC. These on-campus demonstration sites include: University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, George Washington University-Washington, DC and Ohio University-Athens. These campaigns will be completed in 2011.
Additionally, The Century Council provided a research grant to the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) to learn more about the role of emergency services with regard to college binge drinking. More information will be released about this project in late April. The Century Council has also partnered with the Center for Leadership in Public Service at Fisher College to further explore the issue of college binge drinking from the perspective of campus law enforcement and student affairs professionals and is working with the National Judicial College to investigate the impact of campus judicial policies on student offenders.