Who: Global Brands Ltd t/a Hooch and the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA“)
Law stated as at: 27 October 2016
A Facebook page of a comedian and social media celebrity Joe Charman included a video in which Mr Charman can be seen holding three bottles of Hooch, before running towards a swimming pool and jumping onto an inflatable that was in the water. Mr Charman proceeded to travel across the pool on the inflatable, whilst still carrying the bottles of Hooch, giving them to two other men at the other side of the pool.
The video was titled: “When it’s your round, make it a Hooch! #OutrageouslyRefreshing.”
One member of the public made a complaint to the ASA that the advert was aimed at young people and promoted the consumption of alcohol linked with juvenile behaviour.
Global Brands Ltd (who produce Hooch) stated that Joe Charman was known for producing videos on the “Vine” social networking platform and that the videos portrayed Mr Charman as “the skills guy”, whereby he would carry out seemingly impossible feats. Global Brands argued that Mr Charman’s normal videos did not feature any reckless or juvenile behaviour, but instead focused on unlikely feats of skill. Additionally, the video (that was the subject of the complaint) was altered with special effects and showed an obviously “faked skill” which was “consistent with other performances that the intended audience would understand as such.”
The ASA reviewed the complaint under CAP code rule 18.14, which requires that: Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. People shown drinking or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16) should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.
The ASA agreed that the wider information shown on Facebook, did not include anything that was likely to appeal to under 18s. Notwithstanding that, they considered that the inclusion of Joe Charman carrying out a “fake skill” within the video, was an example of “juvenile” behaviour and would itself be likely to appeal to an underage audience.
Consequently the ASA concluded that the activity breached CAP code rule 18.14, given the appeal to under 18s. Global Brands was told not to repeat the ad in its current form and to ensure that those playing a significant role in their future ads were not shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.
Why this matters:
This ruling is a strong reminder to all marketers involved in the promotion of alcoholic drinks that the ASA has a zero tolerance attitude when it comes to promotions that are likely to appeal to underage drinkers. It is likely that the ASA would have upheld the complaint, even where the behaviour being portrayed was not juvenile, on the basis that the individual chosen to promote the drink was popular amongst people under 18 years old. Given the popularity of social media amongst under 18s, marketers must take great care when using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other popular platforms to promote their products.