Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and DrunkH Ltd (DrunkH)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 14 December 2022
Law stated as at: 16 January 2023
On 14 December, the ASA published its ruling against two DrunkH ads, in relation to several alleged breaches of the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code).
- The ruling related to the following ads which promoted a drinking card game:
- A paid for ad on Instagram, which included claims such as “UK’s most irresponsible drinking game Spice up your pre-drinks, parties, stag dos and hen dos with an easy to play but brutally exciting drinking game. Warning: This game is NOT for snowflakes” alongside an image of a full beer glass with a face showing crosses for eyes and a sloping mouth.
- The Instagram ad also linked to a website which featured the beer glass with the face and claims such as “HANGOVER GUARANTEED”.
Both ads were challenged on the grounds that they were irresponsible, namely because they:
- encouraged excessive drinking;
- portrayed drinking alcohol as a challenge, encouraged irresponsible and anti-social behaviour and linked alcohol with daring behaviour; and
- suggested that alcohol was a key component to the success of a social event.
In addition, the complainant challenged whether the ad was inappropriately targeted at people under 18 years of age.
In response to the complaints, DrunkH said that they were new to the market and were not aware of the rules in relation to responsible drinking and that, due to an oversight, they had not been aware that the ads targeted those under the age of 18.
Unsurprisingly, the ASA upheld all of the challenges, concluding the following:
- Excessive drinking. The combination of the image and the text (for example, references to “the UK’s most irresponsible drinking game”) in both ads breached the CAP Code’s requirement for marketing communications to be socially responsible, not be likely to lead people to adopt unwise drinking styles and not imply or encourage excessive alcohol consumption.
- Portrayal of drinking and behaviour. The text (for example, “brutally exciting drinking game”) aided the ads’ portrayal of drinking alcohol as a challenge, encouraging participants to drink alcohol and complete dares, and as such both ads breached the CAP Code’s requirements that marketing communications should not portray drinking alcohol as a challenge or encourage unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour or link alcohol with brave or daring people or behaviour.
- Social events. The combination of the claim “Spice up your pre-drinks …” and other claims such as “For the pre-drinkers” would be construed to mean that playing the game was a significant factor in the success of the social event and that drinking alcohol as part of a game was an integral part of events, which breached the CAP Code’s requirement that marketers must not show or imply that alcohol was a key component for the success of a social event.
- Underage targeting. The Instragram ad had been served to people between 16 and 32 years old, instead of only being targeted to those aged over 18 which breached the CAP Code’s requirement that such ads should not be directed to those under 18 years of age.
Why this matters:
The ruling is a good example of how not to conduct alcohol marketing and will serve as a useful reminder that ignorance is not a defence when it comes to marketing. Brands should therefore take care when targeting their advertisements for alcohol and ensure that they consider the overall effect of their advertising, including imagery, wording and the tone of the advertising, particularly when showing people handling and consuming alcohol.