At a time when operators are being encouraged to boost drink sales using social media channels, such as Instagram and Facebook, a recent ASA decision may be cause for concern. This revolves around whether light-hearted Facebook posts were “advertising” and whether they should therefore comply with advertising guidelines.

The remit of Advertising Standards Authority is not to condemn legitimate advertising but it does have a role in ensuring all broadcast and non-broadcast adverts, sales promotions and direct marketing follow their principles of being legal, decent, honest and truthful.

In a recent complaint against the Scottish Gin Authority’s re-posts of amusing memes the SGA argued that these were not advertising because they were posts to members by a not-for-profit organisation. There was no gin to buy and the SGA did not receive any money from the sale of gin by others. The ASA disagreed and decided that the posts were connected to the Society’s membership service and the intention to sell gin – and were therefore directly connected to the supply of Scottish Gin. The posts were therefore within its remit and should have complied with the ASA Code of Practice.

The SGA was asked to remove the posts and to ensure that future posts comply with the ASA Code. In particular they should not encourage excessive consumption of alcohol, make health claims, suggest alcohol has therapeutic qualities or that it can enhance attractiveness or sexual success.

Guidelines on advertising of alcoholic drinks

When designing adverts, including posts to be put out on social media, operators should ensure that they keep on the right side of advertising guidelines.

There are specific guidelines in the Code on the advertising of alcoholic drinks. For more on advertising and restrictions relating to the drinks industry, see Freeths article