Tag Archives: alcohol

Booze Blues: Global #Alcohol Sales ‘Shrinking Yet Faster’!

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Glass Ceiling: Lithuania Bans #Alcohol Advertising!

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Nothing Worth Achieving: Heineken Launches ‘Beer of the Future’!

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Libraries, Games and Gelato: Three Suggestions to Increase Social Capital in Belgium and Beyond

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In a world of bloody proxy wars, disappearing rainforests and general systemic failure, arresting the slow decline of the Belgian pub may not rank particularly highly on the global ‘todo’ list, but we at Mediolana were nevertheless moved to discover that this venerable institution – in many senses the lifeblood of village existence in what remains a surprisingly sleepy corner of the world – is in the process of entering the history books. The number of drinking establishments in Belgium fell from 38,128 in 1983 to 17,512 in 2012, and this trend shows little sign of abating: the vertical integration of breweries, over-industrialisation of beer manufacturing and changing generational norms are not irreversible, but difficult to rectify.

In part, this may be a blessing in disguise: beer consumption in Belgium has declined 27% since 1992, a highly-desirable trend given that 10% of all deaths in Europe can be attributed to alcohol – a figure that rises to 15% in the former Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the gentle decline of the Belgian pub denotes a significant loss in social capital: the endless card games and conversations hosted by these venues have seemingly not yet found an alternative location in which to express themselves.

After some contemplation, we at Mediolana think we have some solutions to plug this gap. Three in particular stand out:

  1. Libraries. The Belgian pub was never the rowdiest of alcohol-serving outlets, so recasting it in a book-dominated format is not the paradigm shift it might appear to be. As recent experiences in the UK and Spain have shown, when budget cuts hit libraries, the general public can be counted on to keep these services alive as much as any other – a lending library with a small commercial twist should be even easier to turn into a self-sustaining if not downright profitable enterprise.
  2. Gelato. For years, the delights of Italian gelato were confined to those precious weeks holidaying on the boot-shaped peninsula – or, at a stretch, Yugoslavia or Turkey – where genuinely amazing ice-cream could be enjoyed at leisure, and in glorious sunshine. But it turns out that gelato transplants well into other locations, regardless of climate: Italian ice-cream is the new retail rock ‘n’ roll in parts of Northern Europe. If it can take off in rainy London, then sultry Brussels (and its hinterland) can also reap the social benefits from a sugar high.
  3. Games. If there is one thing guaranteed to get young people enthusiastic about getting away from their mobile telephones, it is the prospect of staring at yet more electronic screens. Entrepreneurs in the Belgian hospitality industry would do well to look at the example of the PC bang, an often-luxurious type of über-Internet café which is a staple of teenage life in South Korea. Adding a peculiarly Belgian dimension to the PC bang – perhaps multi-branch sports clubs attached to each locality – could in turn inspire other European nations confronting similar social capital declines to follow suit.

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Alcohol Policy in Turkey: The Limitations of Existing Paradigms and the Imperative of Informationalism

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 15.54.46Having amassed and pored through a fair bit of research on this very subject in the last few months, it was with some interest that we at Mediolana have been following recent legislative developments in Turkey on the issue of alcohol policy. Following the example of countries such as Sweden, Turkey is looking to regulate various aspects pertaining to the alcohol industry, and a bill was passed by the Turkish parliament earlier this week to this effect. The proposed law – it still has to be ratified by the Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, before it becomes official – contains a mixture of provisions; some of them are world-class, others anything but. However, the abject quality of both the debate surrounding the draft bill and the initial versions of the law evince nothing more than the limitations of at least three longstanding paradigms – with implications that reach far beyond the shores of the Turkish Republic:

1. Existing Policy. On one of his rare holidays, in the summer of 2012 our CSO and Creative Director came across a can of Efes Pilsen on a Cypriot beach. It had all the health information of a bottle of mineral water; unlike containers of alcohol even in a largely-unregulated country such as the UK, there were no warnings about the suitability of the drink for groups such as pregnant women, no unit information, and no medical officer’s warning. Given that at present rates of c.2.25-2.5m global deaths per annum, alcohol will kill up to 250,000,000 this century (World Health Organisation, 2011), and that ethanol is a class 1 carcinogen or cancer-producer, this is exactly the kind of situation that the new legislation should be aiming to remedy.

2. Authoritarian Solutions. Most of the provisions in the final version of the bill voted on by the Turkish parliament are well within the norms of best-practice international legislative standards. But the initial drafts posited by the governing Justice and Development Party (‘AKP’) were riddled with overbearing and unrealistic demands, such as the obfuscation of the consumption of alcohol in open-air eateries. Most disappointingly, the emphasis was on negative restrictions rather than the positive provision of information. Even in model jurisdictions, the ignorance and lack of imagination of alcohol regulators (let alone the general population) on the effects of alcohol consumption is arguably the core problem in this context. The knowledge that even moderate alcohol consumption engenders conditions as diverse as breast cancer and reduced orgasmic capacity and intensity is a much more powerful deterrent to drinking alcohol than whether a bar is placed 99 or 101 metres from an educational establishment.

3. Cultural Wars. Turkey’s main opposition party – the Republican People’s Party (‘CHP’) – yet again demonstrated the limitations of an approach based almost entirely on adversarial politics, in this case via ‘exposing’ another political party’s ‘secret agenda’. Whilst happy to water down the AKP’s proposals, they proffered no model of their own, let alone a recognition that individual and corporate liberties at some point do intersect and conflict with the public interest. Their lack of knowledge as to just how seriously many Western jurisdictions treat this issue ended up undermining their credibility. As our CSO recalls from his early career as a football journalist, not even the hosting of the 1998 FIFA World Cup made France change their strict laws regarding alcohol and sports sponsorship: official FIFA sponsor Budweiser was barred from the tournament, their advertising space instead being allocated to Tokyo-headquartered electronics company Casio.

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Theodore Dalrymple’s British ‘Brutishness’: The Failure of a Monoculture

Reading about the United Kingdom in the overseas press – Mediolana is headquartered in the frankly stunning London neighbourhood of Kensington – is something that our CSO takes particular enjoyment in, and a recent piece in the exquisitely-titled Wall Street Journal was no exception. Authored by one Theodore Dalrymple – the nom de plume of the retired psychiatrist A. M. Daniels – The Ugly Brutishness of Modern Britain is an eloquent lament for civility in an increasingly coarse land.

Dalrymple describes a United Kingdom where fast food packaging defaces hedgerows and where basic hygiene is, allegedly, all but absent. The writer appears particularly perturbed by a nihilistic, alcohol-defined youth culture, the depressingly emetic results of which can be seen across much of Great Britain on weekend nights. And then, with a flourish of his keyboard, the writer places the blame at the door of multiculturalism: because, so the logic goes, multiculturalism places all cultures at an equal value, this means that even the least edifying forms of underclass culture are rendered immune from criticism.

However, on closer examination the situation that Dalrymple is describing is arguably something entirely different: the failure of a monoculture. The booze-criminality-police triangle that features prominently in his article may be a staple of life in deepest, almost uniformly English Shropshire, but in the phenomenally international metropolis that is London, alcohol consumption patterns of the kind that Dalrymple are barely discernible: recent figures from the National Health Service (‘NHS’) illustrate that there is a chasm in this respect between the rest of the UK and its capital city, where on weekend nights one can walk through entire commercial zones – even in relatively deprived areas – with little or no fear of alcohol-fuelled violence.

Dalrymple’s piece evinces a common fallacy: that multiculturalism is equivalent to a simplistic moral relativism. Instead, if one understands multiculturalism as its etymology would appear to dictate – as an acceptance of the long-established reality of cultural pluralism – then far from encouraging moral relativism, multiculturalism could in fact counter it. Most of the different cultures that have significant presences in London, from the Italian and Arabic to the French, Indian and Turkish, are arguably considerably more likely than contemporary English culture to place at least a nominal value on institutions such as the family and religion, as well as the obligations of the individual to the group; particularly in this context, multiculturalism is one of United Kingdom’s greatest assets, rather than something to be regretted.

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