Alcohol: Juvenile or adolescent behaviour

Aug 20th '13

Encouraging “laddish” or “laddette” behaviour is likely to be frowned upon by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Depicting a girls’ night out or a guy being a bit of a rogue is not in itself a problem but puerile, anti-social, aggressive or irreverent behaviour is likely to be unacceptable for two reasons: firstly, depicting conduct or actions that could be construed as drunken is likely to be unacceptable for encouraging excessive consumption and, secondly, condoning such behaviour might appeal to the young or daring.


Advertising rules to consider are 18.1, 18.4, 18.14, 18.15 and 18.16. The first rule states “Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable”; the next rule relates to linking alcohol with unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour and the final three rules relate to marketing communications featuring or appealing to under-18s.


Ads that show scenarios in which a person’s dialogue or behaviour is mischievous, but no more than playful, might be acceptable. If the motive is for sexual gratification, peer respect, to undermine authority and the like, the ads are likely to be unacceptable.


In 2004, the ASA upheld a complaint about a poster that showed a middle-aged man sitting on a photocopier with his trousers round his ankles. The ASA considered that the ad irresponsibly condoned immature behaviour (Beverage Brands (UK) Ltd, 9 June 2004).


An ad on an alcohol brands YouTube page, entitled “Anti-wasp”, showed a man killing a wasp using a makeshift flamethrower fashioned from a lighter and an aerosol can. Another ad on the same channel for the same brand, entitled “Anti Busybody. Anti-controversial”, featured a man parking his car in a disabled space. When questioned by another man he said that he had Tourettes and shouted “Twat”. Complaints were received that the ads were likely to appeal to under 18 year olds and also that they featured adolescent and juvenile behaviour, the ASA agreed (Aston Manor Brewery Company Ltd, 13 June 2012).


An ad for Virgin Holidays featured several men sitting in a Jacuzzi surrounded by empty bottles and glasses. One of the men and a female staff member were pouring champagne into the Jacuzzi. Text on the ad stated “Rockstar service”. A complainant objected as they considered that alcohol was being misused in the ad and the ASA agreed. Marketers should bear in mind that the alcohol rules apply to the depiction of alcohol in marketing for all products. In this instance the men’s behaviour in conjunction with the depiction of alcohol was therefore unacceptable (Virgin Holidays Ltd, 29 September 2010).


Ads that portray drinking as a challenge, or being drunk as something to aspire to, are highly likely to fall foul of the Code. A Facebook page for Whisky, seemingly directed at students, carried such phrases as “the stamp is only valid if you have at least 2 shots per bar you’re in, so get your alcohol tolerance up fellow students. There’s reputation at hand here!”, “All good students know that there’s only one way to get as drunk as we want without being broke the next day, and the answer of course, pre drinks” and “Not long before the taxis are due, you stumble over a … well, you don’t stumble over anything actually. You just stumble over. You sensibly and correctly conclude that you’re not drunk enough – time for the Fireball to come out!” was complained about. The complainant felt that the ads were likely to exploit the young, immature and vulnerable and encouraged excessive drinking, the ASA agreed (Hi Spirits Ltd, 17 July 2013).


Complaints were received about a promotion for a night out. The ad stated “London’s biggest pub crawl” and contained references to “a big night out”, “party animals” and “massive discounts” on drinks purchased, as well as an invitation to “neck some top-quality grog”. It then went on to state “When it’s time to party, you should party hard”. The ASA considered that the ad gave the impression that the event was one where large amounts of alcohol could be consumed and therefore considered that the encouragement to excessive or immoderate consumption rendered the ad problematic (Time Out Group Ltd t/a Time Out, 10 October 2012).


Source: Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)


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 Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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