Let’s face it, for all its organoleptic pleasures there is a potential dark side to the effects of alcohol which society has seen fit to mitigate by imposing certain restrictions on its sale.
Nonetheless I have always been of the view that advertisers have a right to responsibly advertise legally available products.
I am no innocent either. For a decade I ran the Tango brand and have experience of having my advertising banned and criticised. Maybe it was because I knew the regulations inside out that I was asked to chair the most thorough review in 50 years of the codes which govern all marketing communication in the UK and recognise their extension into digital brand communication a few years ago.
The alcohol industry has an enviable record of complying with them and has benefitted hugely from doing so within the self and co-regulatory framework agreed with successive governments over the years. Yet somehow we get those in our number who profess ignorance of the codes and provide critics with ammunition.
The ASA has recently ordered Hi-Spirits to change its advertising material for the fourth time this year.
Complaints were made about a stockist brochure for Fireball whiskey, which carried the text “The hotter you are the faster I come”, as well as showing someone who appeared to be under 25 holding a sign that read: “Tastes like heaven burns like hell”.
Chairman Jeremy Hill observed to the press that “We did not believe it fell within the ASA’s remit”.
Hi-Spirits social media activity on Facebook has also been taken to task by the ASA. It featured material about binge drinking, pre-loading, stumbling over after drinking too much, dumping a boyfriend in favour of more booze and questioning whether anything was more important than whiskey. Hill’s response was: “Fireball typically appeals to media-savvy and digitally literate consumers who understand and engage with the tongue-in-cheek marketing.”
Is it any surprise that Alcohol Concern believes the code is not fit for purpose, or that an ASA overhaul of the way all drinks companies use social media is expected within weeks?