Advertising zero alcohol products


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Published
May 14th '24
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In May 2024, Ad rules were created to bring alcohol alternative products/zero/no alcohol products into the scope of Section 18 of the Committee of Advertising Practice  (CAP) Code (and rules Section 19 of the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) Code). As well as this guidance, marketers are encouraged to read Advertising Guidance – Alcohol Alternatives.

 

  • Definition

Alcohol alternatives are non-alcoholic drinks (for the purposes of the CAP Code, those at or under 0.5% ABV) that are intended to replace alcoholic drinks in contexts where they would normally be consumed, such as non-alcoholic beer. A marketing communication for a non-alcoholic drink will be subject to ad rules if it is likely to be understood by the audience as an ad specifically for an alternative to alcohol, whether in general or as a non-alcoholic version of a particular alcoholic drink.

 

It is important to note that where an ad for a drink at or below 0.5% ABV has the effect of promoting an alcoholic drink, the Alcohol Rules apply in full. See “Cross promotion / Shared Branding” below for more.

 

Products above 0.5% but below 1.2% ABV are considered ‘low alcohol’ – see Alcohol: Low Alcohol drinks guidance for more. Products above 1.2% ABV are considered standard alcoholic beverages.

 

  • ABV

As per rule 18.19, all alcohol alternative product ads should explicitly state the product’s ABV in the ad. This is because some consumers will want to avoid even trace amounts of alcohol, whether that be for religious, health, or other reasons – and since alcohol alternative products can have anything from 0.0%-0.5% ABV, ads should make clear the exact percentage via clear and prominent messaging.

 

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) does not yet have precedent on what constitutes “prominent” – however, footnotes and qualifications are unlikely to be considered “prominent” in this area.

 

  • Cross Promotion/ Shared Branding

Any ad for an alcohol alternative that uses alcohol-related imagery (such as packaging, glassware, serving etc.) that doesn’t make the alcohol-free nature of the product clear is likely to be considered as promoting alcohol. Ads which have this effect must comply with the entirety of Section 18.

 

Some alcohol alternatives will be marketed under the umbrella of a parent brand, perhaps one that has historically sold alcoholic products. Ads for such products will not inherently be treated as cross-promotional, but marketers must take care. Such ads should ensure the focus is on the alcohol alternative rather than the brand itself. Marketers in this instance should be wary of using slogans or other branding that might be seen as synonymous with either the brand as a whole, or other alcoholic products, as this could tip the ad into the requirement to comply with the entirety of Section 18.

 

Any ad that promotes the parent brand and shows a range of drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic in nature, are permitted, but would have to comply with the entirety of Section 18.

 

Alcohol retailers looking for more information about shared branding, product listings, brand websites, kombucha, or public awareness campaigns are encouraged to read Advertising Guidance for Alcohol Alternatives.

 

  • Depictions of unwise actions or locations

Ads that show alcohol alternatives being consumed in places or during activities where normal alcohol consumption would be unsafe, such as driving, hiking, near water etc. are not prohibited. However, marketers should ensure that their ad is not ambiguous – i.e. it is clear that the product being shown is alcohol free. Additional elements, such as increasing the prominence of the ABV percentage and visual or audio cues within the ad that clarify the nature of the product are more likely to ensure compliance.

 

Ads that are not clearly for alternative products are likely to be subject to Section 18 in its entirety.

 

  • Depictions of pregnancy

Ads for alcohol alternatives with more than 0.0% ABV may not state or imply that alcohol alternative products are suitable during pregnancy nor when trying to conceive. This is because there is currently a shortage of evidence relating to the risks of consuming alcohol products at 0.5% ABV and below during pregnancy/conception, and since the Chief Medical Officer’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines state that the safest approach is not to drink alcohol at all “to keep risks to your baby to the minimum” , CAP recommends against stating or implying such products are suitable whilst pregnant or when trying to conceive.

 

Products that are, however, at 0.0% ABV may depict pregnancy in their ads, as long as the nature of the product is clear and the ad does not otherwise condone or encourage alcohol in similar circumstances.

 

Once again, advertisers are encouraged to read Advertising Guidance for Alcohol Alternatives.

 

  • Targeting

Ad rules state that marketing communications for alcohol alternatives “must not be directed at people under 18 through the selection of media or the context in which they appear. No medium should be used to advertise alcohol alternatives if more than 25% of its audience is under 18 years of age”, which mirrors rules for regular and low alcohol products. Advertisers can read more about targeting in Alcohol: Targeting and Appeal to Under 18s guidance, Children: Targeting and Age Restricted Ads Online. 

 

Source: CAP

 

About CAP

The CAP is the sister organisation of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.

 

Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.

 

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