In October 2005, Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) brought in new, 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 amongst young people.
Marketers of alcoholic drinks were always expected to portray their alcoholic product responsibly – however, the changes tightened the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) position. The rules now state explicitly that they apply irrespective of whether the product is shown or seen being consumed. It’s also important to note that even if a marketer is not an alcoholic drink manufacturer/supplier, if their ad shows an alcoholic product, their ad is subject to these alcohol rules.
In short, advertisers must ensure:
- ads do not encourage people 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. See Alcohol: Unwise or Excessive Consumption.
- ads do not suggest that drinking can overcome problems. See Alcohol: Boredom and Loneliness.
- models both are and look 25 years old or older. See Alcohol: Featuring Under 25s.
- people shown drinking are not behaving in an adolescent or juvenile way. See Alcohol: Juvenile or Laddish Behaviour.
- alcohol ads do not reflect the culture of people under 18. See Alcohol: Use of Cartoons, Animals and Characters.
- ads are not directed at under-18s in any way; which includes, for example, context and content.
- ads do not suggest that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or can change moods or enhance confidence, mental or physical capabilities or performance, popularity or sporting achievements. See Alcohol: Therapeutic Claims and Alcohol: Enhanced Sporting, Mental and Physical Capabilities.
- ads do not show alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly. See Alcohol: Handling and Serving.
- links are not be made between alcohol and seduction, sexual activity or sexual success. See Alcohol: Sex and Personal Relationships.
- ads do not suggest alcohol is the reason for the success of a personal relationship or social event. See Alcohol: Social Events and Alcohol: Sex and Personal Relationships.
- drinking alcohol is not portrayed as a challenge or linked with tough or daring behaviour. See Alcohol: Challenges, Bravery and Machismo and Alcohol: Violence.
- ads do not show alcohol being consumed, or link alcohol to, activities or locations where drinking would be unwise. See Alcohol: Unwise Locations and Activities.
Marketers are also reminded that there are various rules for:
- Low alcohol drinks. See Alcohol: Low Alcohol Drinks.
- Alcoholic strength. See Alcohol: Alcoholic Strength.
- Health claims for alcoholic drinks. See Alcohol: Health, Diet and Nutritional Claims.
- See Children: Targeting and Children and Age-Restricted Ads Online guidance.
- Promotional marketing (including marketing in Scotland). See Alcohol: Promotional Marketing
- Country of origin claims. See Alcohol: Country of Origin.
- Using celebrities. See Alcohol: Celebrities.
As with all subjective decisions, it is sometimes difficult to pre-judge whether the ASA will rule against certain executions. Given the socio-political climate in which alcohol marketers now operate, the Copy Advice team tends to take a cautious approach when giving advice on alcohol ads.
Whilst the ASA cannot comment on the packaging and names of alcoholic drinks, the Portman Group, an industry trade group, should be able to do so.
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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