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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Trying to force wine down the throats of Generation Y (18-24) is a trap rather than an opportunity', according to Mike Paul, managing director of Western Wines. Speaking at the Marketing Society's annual drinks event, The Future of Marketing Alcoholic Drinks to Young Adults', Paul said that there is a difference between simplification and dumbing down', and that overt' marketing to younger drinkers may do more harm than good. Wine should remain aspirational' and any attempts to market wine to a younger audience may alienate its core consumers', he added, stating that the over-60s represent a better opportunity for the wine trade than young adults. Other members of the panel, which was chaired by Harpers' editor Tim Atkin MW, included Jean Coussins (CEO of the Portman Group), David Williams (CEO of First Quench) and Syl Saller (marketing director of Diageo GB). A new body of research carried out by MyVoice, which interviewed 500 young adults (18-24), was released at the event. In a boost for the wine trade it showed that wine was part of young drinkers' repertoire (particularly among women), while respondents said that they would be likely to drink more of it in the future (along with sparkling wine and FABs). Most of the discussion centred on the twin problems of marketing to 18-to24-year-olds: the need to act responsibly, and the difficulties of reaching an increasingly media-savvy and cynical age group. Saller spoke about how youth is now an inspirational state for everyone', and said that messages traditionally thought to attract youth are obsolete. If we try too hard, we fail,' she said, highlighting the importance of humour and getting an advert talked about'. She also argued that the interests of the drinks industry are not automatically harmful to the public good. Binge drinking to the alcohol industry is like botulism to the food industry,' she said. Coussins, however, urged the marketeers present to look more closely at their current output and to make sure adverts and campaigns follow the spirit as well as the letter' of current guidelines, or face the prospect of increased government intervention.