Hot on the heels of changes to rules for alcohol ads on TV and radio due to come into force 1 October 2005, the Committee of Advertising Practice has published changes to the ‘Alcoholic Drinks’ section of the non-broadcast CAP Code.
Who: The Committee of Advertising Practice (Non-Broadcast)
Where: High Holborn, London, WC1
When: June 2005
The Committee of Advertising Practice (Non-Broadcast) published a new version of the Alcoholic Drinks section of the "CAP" British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.
Effective October 2005, these changes follow amendments to the Broadcast Advertising Code introduced earlier in the year and also in force from 1 October 2005.
The changes, CAP tells us, are a reflection of public concern about under age and irresponsible drinking and are tougher than the current rules in four areas in particular. These are:
- appeals to under age drinkers and references to youth culture;
- the use of sex in advertising;
- aggressive, anti-social and irresponsible behaviour in relation to drinking; and
- irresponsible handling and serving of alcohol.
Now let's look at the detailed changes.
One completely new provision is:
"Alcohol must not be handled or served irresponsibly".
This is in response to some earlier TV advertising for example, which showed spirits being de-bottled with gay abandon virtually over the heads of a crowded bar. Two more additional rules are:
"The spirit as well as the letter of the rules in this section apply whether or not a product is shown or referred to or seen as being consumed.
The rules are not intended to inhibit advertising on alcohol-related health or safety themes provided it is responsible and is not likely to promote a brand of alcohol".
In another re-cast paragraph, the phrase:
"People shown drinking should not be, nor should they look, under 25".
"People shown drinking or playing a significant role should neither be nor look under 25 and should not be shown behaving in adolescent or juvenile ways".
Another new provision is:
"Marketing communications should not be associated with people under 18 or affect their culture".
A new thing that ads should not suggest drink can do is "change moods or enhance confidence or mental or physical performance". Another new prohibited linkage is between alcohol and seduction or sexual activity or sexual success, whereas before, the ban was simply on suggesting a drink could enhance "sexual capabilities".
In terms of the strength of an alcoholic drink, the rule that marketing communications may give factual information about the alcoholic strength of a drink or its relatively high alcohol content remains unchanged, but additional wording also allows 'factual strength comparisons' with other products.
Another new rule here is that "drinks may be presented as preferable because of low or lower strength". Furthermore, the old rule that alcoholic content "should not be the dominant theme of any marketing communication" has gone. In its place is a far more restrictive requirement that whether or not the theme is dominant, there can be no suggestion whatsoever that a drink may be preferred because of its high alcohol content or intoxicating effect other than by way of factual information about the strength of the drink or factual strength comparisons with other products.
The other changes are in the area of linking alcohol with bravado. The old rule:
"Drinking alcohol should not be portrayed as a challenge, nor should it be suggested that people who drink are brave, tough or daring for doing so"
has been amplified to the following:
"Drinking alcohol should not be portrayed as a challenge, especially to the young. Marketing communications should neither show, imply or (sic) refer to aggression or unruly, irresponsible or antisocial behaviour nor link alcohol with brave, tough or daring people or behaviour".
Another small but potentially quite important change is in the area of sales promotions. The rule up to 30 September is that these should not "actively encourage excessive consumption". After that, the new rule is that such promotions "do not encourage excessive consumption", actively or otherwise.
Why this matters:
These rule changes may not appear extensive, but potentially they are quite important and far-reaching. Marketers of alcoholic drinks would do well to take notice of them well in advance of 1 October 2005.