Purpose: The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern regarding alcohol consumption and related harms in developing nations. Concomitantly a growing evidence base suggests that alcohol marketing influences drinking behaviours. The purpose of this paper is to explore how critical social marketing can help assess the nature of alcohol marketing, and the effectiveness of its regulation, in developing countries. Design/methodology/approach: A sample of 14 alcohol marketing campaigns from India, Malawi, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand are assessed against the regulatory codes governing alcohol marketing in the UK. Findings: The study found that alcohol marketing often contravened the UK regulatory codes. Critical social marketing offers a framework for research and analysis to assess the nature and impact of alcohol marketing, and to address alcohol related harms in developing countries. Research limitations/implications: This exploratory study is limited to a small convenience sample. Future research to systematically audit alcohol marketing, and consumer studies to assess its impact on drinking behaviours in developing nations would be welcomed. Practical implications: Findings suggest that initiatives to monitor and effectively regulate alcohol marketing in developing nations should be explored by policymakers. The competitive analysis and insight generated by studies of this nature can aid development agencies in the design and implementation of alcohol social marketing interventions. The global alcohol industry and marketers should also be encouraged to act more socially responsible. Originality/value: The paper offers insights into how the critical social marketing framework can be applied in practice, to inform social marketing activity in the upstream and downstream environment.