Advertising Alcohol – a reminder. By Christopher Hall

Some advertisers have tested the waters and learnt how to link specific alcohol brands with holiday seasons without breaking the rules.   As alcohol advertising is a sensitive area, and with Easter weekend fast approaching if you are planning on linking alcohol with Easter we recommend reading this article.

In October 2005, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) brought in stricter, rules about the marketing of alcoholic drinks. The changes were a result of widespread concern about drinking behaviour such as excessive or binge drinking and anti-social behaviour, especially among the young.

Marketers of alcoholic drinks were always expected to steer clear of implying that drinkers should party all night, binge drink, or get rowdy and drunk but in 2005 the rules were toughened up. The changes tightened several restrictions, notably those on the use of seduction or sexual success and particular appeal to those under 18 years of age. The rules now state explicitly that they apply irrespective of whether the product is shown or seen being consumed.

In short, advertisers must ensure:

  • models used must look are over 25 years old;
  • people shown drinking are not behaving in an childish or immature way;
  • alcohol adverts must not reflect the culture of people under 18;
  • adverts must not be directed to those under-18s in any way; which includes, context and content;
  • people are not encouraged to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise, for example, immoderate consumption, drinking over a prolonged period or rapid intake over a short space of time;
  • advertisements must not imply that drinking can overcome problems;
  • adverts do not suggest that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or can change moods or enhance confidence, mental or physical abilities or performance, popularity or sporting accomplishments;
  • adverts do not show alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly;
  • links are not be made between alcohol and seduction, sexual activity or sexual success;
  • adverts do not suggest alcohol is the reason for the success of a personal relationship or social event;
  • drinking alcohol is not to be portrayed as a challenge or linked with tough or daring behaviour.

Additional information – use of cartoons, animals and characters

Marketers should be careful if they wish to feature toys or toy brands that are familiar to children, for example: if you used a fluffy bunny rabbit to promote a drinks brand, it is likely to appeal to children and would be seen as socially irresponsible.

Marketers should also exercise caution when using cartoon-like images in alcohol advertisements.  Whilst it might be acceptable if for an adult audience, marketers run the risk of appealing to young people if cartoon images are too childish.

As with all subjective decisions, it is sometimes difficult to judge whether the Advertising Standards Authority will rule against certain adverts. Given the social and political climate in which alcohol marketers now operate, we recommend that marketers take a cautious approach when considering advertising in this way.

Relevant CAP Code rules:

The drinks industry also has a Code that applies to the naming and packaging of alcohol products and promotional activity. Marketers may refer to the Portman Group’s Code, on www.portmangroup.org.uk.

The Portman Group is the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK.

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Source: CAP website.