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Riverbed's new campaign draws attention to the real drinking age in South Africa

We know that underage drinking is a problem, but we're quick to dismiss it as an issue only in other communities or a result of youthful curiosity or peer pressure. It is time for all adults to consider their role in influencing underage drinking.
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Described by, the Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education, underage drinking is a silent crisis, and one that is often subconsciously enabled by parents, older siblings, other family members and/or friends. Many kids cite their parents as the biggest influencers of their underage drinking.

On a mission to shed light on early societal influence and drive social change, together with their agency, Riverbed, launched a multi-platform campaign that makes a powerful point: Underage drinking starts long before it begins. And you can stop it!

Bridget Johnson, Riverbed ECD, believes that “Change starts with a conscious mind-shift and a campaign like this tackles some hard truths designed to get all of us thinking about the role we play.”

The campaign launched with a stakeholder event, a 60-second film and radio campaign in all languages on 29 August 2019.

Rolling out in the coming weeks, will intensify awareness and engagement through social media and PR, calling on all South Africans to share stories of their earliest exposure to alcohol via the #myfirstdrinkstory movement. “We hope to get the nation talking about the real-life ways we all normalise or even glamorise alcohol consumption,” comments Mpumi Ngwenya-Tshabangu, creative lead on the campaign. Adding his voice will be Kabelo Mabalane, campaign ambassador and vocal advocate of underage drinking reform.

Growing up, kids are often around adults who drink to relax, celebrate, cope with stress or process just about any emotion. “In many instances, children are asked by adults to get them another beer or pour a glass of wine. These questionable social norms are what informed the creative campaign,” explains Johnson.

The campaign’s 60” TVC, shot by Kim Geldenhuys of 0307 Films, explores some of these scenarios with each ‘story’ expanded in four 30” spots. “Kim has a way of telling stories that cannot be ignored. His gritty realism helped to ‘hold up a mirror’ for people to feel uncomfortable, to make people think,” comments Johnson. A set of daring radio spots were carefully considered to articulate that underage drinking impacts all sectors of society, regardless of race or economic standing. These spots dramatise children’s first drink stories set in an AA group meeting, produced by Tlotleho Mohlahlane (Clu) at The Audio Guys. “Radio needed to add to the discomfort created in other media. It’s a simple idea, but we had to balance impact with the authenticity and honesty of the kids,” explains Ngwengya-Tshabangu. There’s also an out of home media element, and all channels push to the microsite (

The campaign is another chapter in the agency’s social impact work portfolio. Johnson praised the client and agency partners for their courage, passion and commitment to producing a provocative campaign that is intended to create debate and really gets South Africans to collectively consider their power to affect child enablement through their own actions.

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The Riverbed Agency is a strategic Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Agency, obsessed and passionate about communicating in every way possible.