This year’s theme for Alcohol Awareness Week is ‘Alcohol and Me’, with the intention of encouraging people to reflect on, and possibly change, their own drinking habits. With that in mind, it got us thinking about the relationship between ads and the Alcohol Rules, and the key elements that advertisers need to keep in mind when promoting alcohol.

Don’t be suggestive

Many of the Alcohol Rules are focused on ensuring that ads don’t suggest that alcohol can have certain effects on an individual. These include not suggesting that alcohol can enhance attractiveness or be a component in sexual success, or implying that alcohol can boost confidence or popularity.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against an ad for a ‘holiday booze cruise’ because it included images of banners that read “I’m behaving badly on Sunset Booze Cruise” and “I left my boyfriend back in England”. They considered that the ad linked a booze cruise, which encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol, with sexual activity.

It is also important that ads do not imply that alcohol can overcome boredom or loneliness, or that it has therapeutic qualities and is capable of changing mood or behaviour.

Be careful with the young

Ads for alcohol, unsurprisingly, must not be directed or targeted at those under the age of 18. This means that extra care needs to be taken when choosing the media in which the ad will appear, as well as the characters used in the ads (real or fictitious) to ensure that it does not have particular appeal to under 18s.

With social media and influencers being an ever increasingly common way to advertise products, marketers need to be sure that the creator or celebrity they work with does not have particular appeal to under-18s or a significant under-18 following.  Avoid working with creators who create content that is more likely to appeal to children than adults and check (and hold evidence of) demographic data for their followers, like Heineken did when they worked with YouTuber Tanya Burr.

Just be responsible

Marketers need to ensure that that there is nothing in the content of their ads that is likely to encourage or condone irresponsible or excessive drinking. Particular care needs to be taken with promotional offers such as bottomless brunches, which allow time-limited free flowing alcohol.

In addition, ads should not link alcohol with dangerous or unwise locations and activities, this includes driving (obviously), handling heavy machinery or drinking in the workplace.

Source: Committee of Advertising Practice

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