The Clear View: Haig Club
Whether an alcohol ad is likely to appeal strongly to under-18s is something we have to consider regularly. There are a number of elements that we have to think about including the music, the style, (for example animation or puppetry), the activities taking place and the people featured.
Of course alcohol ads must not feature anyone playing a significant role who is under 25, but this is not the only consideration when thinking about the people featured in the ad. Celebrities who are particularly associated with youth culture or are heroes to young people would not be acceptable in an alcohol ad. For example, an actor known for their role in current children’s programme or a pop star with a young fan base would be problematic, as would a current Premier League footballer. We have a general rule of thumb that once a footballer retires, he no longer retains the strong appeal to young people and so it is probably acceptable for him to appear in an alcohol ad.
When we were faced with making a decision about the acceptability of Haig Club whisky using David Beckham in their ad we needed more than our rule of thumb to help us make our decision because David Beckham, although now retired, was no ordinary footballer.
We gave very careful consideration to the fact that Beckham was and is a widely loved iconic figure and that even though now retired, he could still be seen as a hero to the young. We asked for Diageo to provide us with information about Beckham’s profile and appeal. They submitted information about his recent business and media activities which helped to substantiate his strong adult appeal, plus they pointed to the fact that as well as being recently retired he had not played football in the Premier League for over 10 years, which had significantly affected his resonance with young people. We accepted the information provided by Diageo and approved the ad in the knowledge that in the likely event of a complaint to the ASA, we could defend our decision.
The complaint was made by Alcohol Concern on the basis of what they considered to be Beckham’s appeal to under-18’s, but the ASA agreed with our decision to approve the ad based on the rationale given above. So we got it right, but it was very important to have the substantiation on file to present a robust defence of the ad.
The rule of thumb held true in this case but the adjudication highlights the importance of giving very careful thought to what kind of people are appropriate in alcohol ads. Alcohol is a very carefully watched sector, so we always take special care to ensure the ads we clear do not appeal to children.
Seb Lynch, Copy Development Manager at Clearcast.