Aims This paper aims to contribute to a rethink of marketing research priorities to address policy makers' evidence needs in relation to alcohol marketing.
Method Discussion paper reviewing evidence gaps identified during an appraisal of policy options to restrict alcohol marketing.
Findings Evidence requirements can be categorized as follows: (i) the size of marketing effects for the whole population and for policy-relevant population subgroups, (ii) the balance between immediate and long-term effects and the time lag, duration and cumulative build-up of effects and (iii) comparative effects of partial versus comprehensive marketing restrictions on consumption and harm. These knowledge gaps impede the appraisal and evaluation of existing and new interventions, because without understanding the size and timing of expected effects, researchers may choose inadequate time-frames, samples or sample sizes. To date, research has tended to rely on simplified models of marketing and has focused disproportionately on youth populations. The effects of cumulative exposure across multiple marketing channels, targeting of messages at certain population groups and indirect effects of advertising on consumption remain unclear.
Conclusion It is essential that studies into marketing effect sizes are geared towards informing policy decision-makers, anchored strongly in theory, use measures of effect that are well-justified and recognize fully the complexities of alcohol marketing efforts.