The approach taken in a recent advertisement for Estrella Beer this summer was vindicated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in August, when a complaint by the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council was not upheld. The claim was that the commercial, which featured people enjoying leisure activity, preparing and eating a meal, encouraged irresponsible drinking amongst young people, as well as linking it to sexual activity.

Brewers, Wells & Youngs, argued that the advertisement was not targeting a youth audience and portrayed adults, who were preparing dinner, playing table tennis, dancing and eating, only sipping beer in moderate quantities.

The ASA agreed and found no breach of advertising standards, saying that those drinking “were shown to be doing so in a controlled manner…no one appeared intoxicated or drinking to excess”. Dancing scenes were not considered sexually suggestive and did not link alcohol with sexual activity or suggest success or seduction.

This is in contrast to an earlier Facebook campaign featuring Trocaderos South Shields, which was banned following complaints of foul language and the fact that it was deemed to invite drunkenness and promiscuous sexual behaviour. In another recent case, an advertisement running in social media for Captain Morgan rum was banned as a result of implying alcohol would overcome boredom and change mood.

Whilst the remit of ASA is not to condemn legitimate advertising, 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 particular, when it comes to advertising alcoholic drinks, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, there is a section which relates specifically to this. It says that advertising should not be targeted at people under 18 and should not imply, condone or encourage immoderate, irresponsible or anti-social drinking.

In particular, the code sets out a number of rules, stating that advertising must:

  • be socially responsible and not lead people to adopt drinking styles that are unwise e.g binge drinking
  • not imply that alcohol enhances confidence or popularity, is a key component of success of a personal relationship or social event
  • not link alcohol with seduction or bravery imply that it enhances attractiveness
  • not imply that alcohol is indispensible or therapeutic or make any health or fitness claims
  • not be likely to appeal particularly to under 18s
  • not feature people under 25 unless they are obviously not drinking.

Estrella’s campaign is an example of one where the guidelines were followed; to avoid the costs and bad publicity associated with falling foul of the CAP Code and the ASA’s policing of advertisements, it makes sense to be aware of what is acceptable in the marketing of alcohol.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.