Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Online drug and alcohol prevention work

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How a viral instagram campaign was created to raise awareness of the thin line between social drinking and problematic alcohol use.

Moving online

Most services are moving (or have moved) online.

Drugs and alcohol are no different.

More and more people are buying drugs online.

There is an increasing number of apps for buying and selling drugs.

And an increasing number of online resources for those working towards recovery from drug and alcohol misuse.

However, until recently, I wasn’t aware of many online drug and alcohol prevention resources — apart from the sort of unbiased information and harm reduction messages provided (particularly well) by the Global Drug Survey.

But earlier this month (October 2016) I came across an account of the innovative use of social media to raise people’s awareness of alcohol problems. This post explores the Louise Delage instagram campaign and relies mainly on the account of it by Elle Hunt (@mlle_elle) in the Guardian.

Who is Louise Delage?

Louise Delage was a 25-year-old Parisian social media star, who – according to her public Instagram profile – liked spending time with friends, eating at restaurants and being outdoors.

Her photos were unremarkable and seemed to simply show a young woman out having fun in a low key way but somehow she built up a following of 65,000 in just over a month.

However, Louise was not a real person but an ad agency creation. The agency had been commissioned by Addict Aide to develop a campaign to try to show how easy it is to move from being a social drinker to having an alcohol problem. All 150 images of “Louise” featured her with some form of alcohol as you can see from the official Addict Aide YouTube compilation below:

The final post to the fake Instagram account revealed the truth and had more than 160,000 views, the same video on YouTube has now had over a quarter of a million views.

Interestingly, hardly any of “Louise’s” followers had noticed her over-reliance on alcohol, which both underlined the importance of the campaign and was something of a disappointment too.


Of course it wasn’t an accident that the account grew so many followers so quickly. Not only was “Louise” played by an attractive model but the ad agency created a bot to like and follow carefully chosen accounts on Delage’s behalf – thus prompting them to follow back – while influential teenage thought-leaders were shoulder-tapped to “spread the Louise Delage profile among their own followers” as part of a “Key Opinion Leader strategy”.

Nevertheless, this seems to me to be an excellent way of taking a message about alcohol and drug use to young people in their natural environment. Where young people’s drug and alcohol workers used to seek out young people in youth clubs, they can now be more effective by going online.

Although, this sort of campaign does, of course, make for an excellent resource to engage young people in discussion in classrooms and other settings.

If you know of any similar UK campaigns, please share them via the comments section below.


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