Essex targets drinkers via cash machine alert

With anti-social behaviour high on the Government agenda, the Licensing Act was introduced last year partly to tackle the problem of binge drinking. It was backed up by an Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign, which highlighted the penalties for drunk and disorderly behaviour – arrest or a fine.

Campaign Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign
Client Home Office/Essex Police
PR team In-house
Timescale December 2005
Budget £10,000

Regional police forces were asked to implement the campaign, and Essex decided to look beyond poster ads.

To present the campaign message – the real consequences of binge drinking and bad behaviour – to as many young people in Essex as possible.

Strategy and Plan
The in-house PR team wanted to make young people think twice about binge drinking. It deemed that drinkers aged 16 to 27 were unlikely to read media such as local newspapers, but would certainly need to withdraw money for a big night out, so it decided to advertise at Nationwide ATMs throughout Essex, as well as in post offices, supermarkets, petrol stations and shopping centres.
The alerts warned people about the dangers of being drunk and disorderly – the message flashed up four times per session on the ATM screens and was  printed out on receipts.

The project was press-released to all local media, including print and radio stations. A cinema campaign – a ten second 'text advert' – appeared on 40 screens at Cineworld Braintree, UCI West Thurrock, UCI Basildon and UCG Harlow throughout December. Again, a press release was sent to local and regional media. As well as alerting them to the campaign, it prompted papers to send photographers to the cashpoints for photocalls.

Measurement and Evaluation
The Essex Evening Echo and Evening Gazette featured news stories on the campaign, as did police magazine The Sharp End. Dream FM and Essex FM aired items, including an interview with a local policeman.

It is estimated that 369,000 people drew money out from the ATMs during the campaign, while a survey conducted by the in-house team found that 48 per cent of cash machine users were aware of the message.

Evening Echo crime reporter Carl Eve, who covered the story, says the press release was 'poor', but that the call to action worked. 'It was a sensible, straightforward idea in a bland press release. But the locations they picked were strange – what 17-year-old would be getting cash out of a post office late at night? That said, I felt the story was useful to readers,' he explains.

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