Ad campaign aims to clear misperceptions about alcohol consumption

The Alcohol and Drug Education Center and nonprofit Tarrant County Challenge Inc. have developed a social norms marketing campaign to dispel myths about alcohol consumption on campus.

Yvonne Giovanis, assistant director of alcohol and drug education center on campus, said the campaign was created to show students they have more options to live a responsible life.

The Freedom to Choose Responsibly campaign, or F2CR, was developed after studying the results of a spring 2008 survey concerning TCU students’ feelings about alcohol consumption and responsibility, Giovanis said.

The survey found that 70 percent of students choose not to drink and drive.

According to the Web site for the American Medical Association, alcohol is the leading cause of death among youth after auto crashes.

Sparkle Greenhaw, director of alcohol and drug education center, said the survey asked students questions about their alcohol use and asked them to rate how much alcohol was consumed on campus. Greenhaw said the survey was conducted with a representative sample of 884 male and female students from different social classes and ethnicities.

“Through our social norms campaign we are slowly unveiling the realities of use,” Greenhaw said.

Students’ perception of the number of students on campus who consume alcohol is higher than the actual number of students on campus who consume alcohol, Greenhaw said. The findings helped the organizations identify the perceptions and evaluate the statistics on alcohol consumption on campus, Greenhaw said.

According to the study, 1 in 4 TCU students choose not to have alcohol available at the parties they attend. This finding and others inspired the name and tagline of the campaign, Greenhaw said.

The campaign tagline is “Your expectations become your experience.”

“We hope to normalize responsible behavior so that students will think to themselves that it is not normal to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking,” Giovanis said.

The Alcohol and Drug Education Center has been placing advertisements for the campaign throughout the semester, Giovanis said. The advertisements included statistics found in the survey without revealing what was meant behind the numbers or the abbreviated name for the campaign, Giovanis said.

“In one of our advertisements, we put in the statistic about students who choose not to have alcohol at parties they attended, so the advertisement was F2CR 1 in 4.” Giovanis said.

Greenhaw said other campaign promotion efforts include free T-shirts given to attendants at last Saturday’s football game and future promotional giveaways. The meaning behind the campaign’s name and purpose was intentionally not released until this point in the semester, Greenhaw said.

Giovanis said the campaign’s name was not released until this fall to catch attention and get the buzz going before they revealed the campaign.

The tagline demonstrates to students that how they expect to live their life is what their life experience will become, Greenhaw said.

“If you expect your life in college to be filled with drinking and parties then it will be filled with drinking and parties,” Greenhaw said.

The survey and campaign were created in conjunction with Tarrant County Challenge Inc.

Tarrant County Challenge is dedicated to eliminating substance abuse in Tarrant County by identifying needs, educating the community, mobilizing resources, promoting collaboration and advocating for sound public policy, according to its Web site.

Larry Ellis, program director for Tarrant County Challenge Inc, said the Department of State Health Services awarded $150,000 to the organization, and in turn the organization offered help to the Alcohol and Drug Education Center on campus.

“Alcohol and binge drinking on campus is a hot topic, and we wanted to address those issues,” Ellis said.

Working with the campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center has allowed the organization to draw attention to the consequences of drinking irresponsibly, Ellis said. The organization’s stance is not abstinence but simply making better choices, Ellis said.

“We’re not prohibitionists; we’re just saying you should use your head when it comes to drinking,” Ellis said.

The organization has used the entire $150,000 of the awarded grant money to help the Alcohol and Drug Education center develop the F2CR campaign, Eliis said.

Ellis said Tarrant County Challenge Inc. has not only helped develop the F2CR campaign at TCU but also has helped create a similar campaign at Juan Seguin High School in Arlington.