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Alcohol: Unwise locations and practices

Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Marketing communications must not link alcohol with activities or locations in which drinking would be unsafe or unwise. In particular, marketing must not link alcohol with the use of potentially dangerous machinery or driving (Rule 18.12) .  In  2012, the ASA rejected a complaint that a Peroni beer ad was irresponsible because it linked the consumption of alcohol with driving.  The ASA noted no driver was shown in the ad and the only model featured was sitting in the passenger seat of a stationary left-hand drive car.  The ASA concluded that there was no link between alcohol and driving (Miller Bramds (UK) Ltd, 4 January 2012).

In 2005, the ASA considered that an ad that showed a party on a station platform did not breach the Code by showing alcohol consumption in an unsafe location because the ad showed a fantasy event (Bacardi-Martini Ltd, 19 January 2005). But it upheld complaints about an ad that showed the wounded torso of a bullfighter because, by focusing on his scars, it linked alcohol with a dangerous sport in which the consumption of alcohol would be unwise (Scottish Courage Ltd, 27 July 2005).

Only in exceptional circumstances may marketing communications feature alcohol being drunk by anyone in their working environment (Rule 18.13).   In 2011, the ASA upheld a complaint about an e-mail for a wine bar promotion which encouraged people to hold their breakfast meetings at the bar and enjoy a glass of wine with their food to make the meeting more interesting.  They considered that the claim encouraged an irresponsible drinking practice (Corney & Barrow Wine Bars Ltd, 16 March 2011) .

Even if ads feature images of people not working, the ASA has upheld complaints against images of people acting irresponsibly and unsafely in an office (Beverage Brands, 9 June 2004).

Over the years, the ASA has upheld complaints against ads that associated drinking alcohol with a swimming pool, linked drinking and surfing and featured a couple drinking wine and sitting in a rowing boat. The Copy Advice team has advised against the use of lifeguards, couples jumping into lakes, allusions to drinking and driving and scenes of people drinking on a yacht. Although showing a beach or swimming pool scene is not necessarily a breach of the Code (especially if models featured are not dressed for swimming and are not shown drinking), CAP urges extreme caution when featuring that type of location in marketing communications. In 2011, the ASA upheld a complaint about a cinema ad which showed people attending a party on the beach.  They were depicted dancing while holding beer bottles, and then shown rushing towards the sea and jumping into the waves in the next scene.  The ASA considered that viewers were likely to infer that the characters had been drinking alcohol before going swimming at night, which is considered an unsafe activity for those under the influence of alcohol (Wells & Young Brewing Company Ltd, 30 November 2011).

 In 2011, the ASA upheld a complaint that linked alcohol with Tim Shieff, a well-known and experienced free-runner.  The ad showed Shieff jumping from one building to another, sliding down a roof etc.  The ASA concluded that, although Shieff was not shown drinking alcohol, the ad breached the Code by linking alcohol with potentially dangerous, extreme moves (Cell Drinks, 3 August 2011).

Even if the advertisement is not for an alcoholic drink, but features people drinking in an unwise location as part of the theme, the advertisement could fall foul of the Code (Virgin Holidays Ltd, September 2010).

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