Alcohol Advertising

02nd August 2019

Ads for alcohol are among the most closely scrutinised and are often subject to challenges and subsequent investigation by the ASA.   Alcohol is rarely out of the spotlight and we take great care with the clearance of alcohol ads.

Over the last 4 weeks we’ve had two interns, Melina and Charday from Haverstock School on a work placement with us and they spent 3 weeks in the copy team learning about the rules around TV advertising. Today is International Beer Day and as part of their time getting to know Comms, we asked them to put together a timely short piece on alcohol advertising.

There are many rules that apply to alcohol advertisements. These are the 5 we think are most important:

1. TV ads shouldn’t suggest that alcohol consumption can ease personal problems, or that one’s behaviour will transform following its consumption.

2. Ads cannot imply that alcohol will magnify one’s popularity, confidence or sexual success.

3. Ads must not link alcohol with daring, toughness, aggression or unruly, irresponsible or antisocial behaviour.

4. All actors with a significant role in an alcohol ad must appear and be above the age of 25. 

5. There is a general timing restriction around alcohol advertising which means ads can’t be transmitted in or adjacent to children’s programmes or programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 18. This can include music, fashion, trends, slang, adolescent behaviour or animated scenes, etc. There must be no relation between anyone below 18 and the consumption of the product.

While Clearcast works hard with advertisers to ensure the rules are met, occasionally the ASA will rule against an ad. This can inform future decisions. For example, the ASA recently banned a whisky ad that featured a man vaulting off a cliff and, during his descent, he grew wings and started to fly. Clearcast considered the daring and toughness Code rule when clearing the ad and had decided that the treatment was fantastical enough to be acceptable. The ASA disagreed however and thought the ad promoted risky or daring behaviour to reap possible rewards.

As 17 year olds, we rarely see alcohol ads on TV that appeal to us, a sure sign that Clearcast is doing its job well. Occasionally, when an ad features a party, upbeat music and colourful imagery, it might catch our eye but because we don’t see anyone under the age of 25 in the ads it doesn’t feel targeted at us.

Further reading:

The Alcohol section of the BCAP code can be found here and the Alcohol section of the Notes of Guidance (our interpretation of the BCAP code) can be found here.