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Alcohol advertising: Take care not to fall foul of the rules

Now that the festive season is over, food and drink businesses will be working on their new advertising campaigns to persuade customers to buy their products. It’s important to remember when advertising alcoholic products not to imply that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or that it is capable of changing moods. We may need some cheering up during January but implying that alcohol could help is a breach of the advertising code.

Alcohol subject to new alcohol advertising standard

The Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code) states that marketing communications relating to alcohol must be socially responsible and must not imply that alcohol is capable of changing mood. Where alcohol is featured prominently in an advert that references positive feelings such as happiness and having fun, make sure that the advert does not imply that alcohol itself is responsible for those feelings.

In a recent advert for a food delivery service, a poster showed a bottle of gin, two bottles of tonic water and a lime. The accompanying strap line stated, “Friday Feels – in minutes, 24/7”. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint that the advert suggested that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and was capable of changing mood. The ASA held that the advert hinted at the idea of relaxing with a drink at the end of the working week and considered that the prominent focus on a bottle of gin in conjunction with the text suggested that alcohol could help accelerate the feeling of relaxation at the end of the working week.

The ASA therefore held that the advert breached the CAP Code and ordered it to be taken down.

In related news, CAP and the Broadcasting Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) have published their interim statement regarding the consultation on new rules and guidance for alcohol alternatives. We reported in May 2022 that CAP and BCAP had proposed a new sub-section of rules in the alcohol sections of both the CAP Code and BCAP Code, and an amendment to the BCAP scheduling rules, to deal specifically with alcohol alternatives and promised to keep you posted.

The significant number of detailed responses to the consultation highlighted some areas requiring further analysis and potential expansions to the guidance. CAP and BCAP state that they will continue to develop their proposals with a view to finalising them in Q1 of 2023. Areas for further enquiry include “new drinking occasions”, in particular regarding depictions of pregnancy in adverts for low or no alcohol products, as well as questions about the pros and cons of shared branding between full strength alcoholic drinks and alcohol alternatives.

How we can help

If you need any help keeping on the right side of the ASA and CAP Code, please contact any member of the Food and Drink team.