Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Global Brands Ltd (Global Brands)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 20 September 2023
Law stated as at: 18 October 2023
The ASA has issued a ruling against Global Brands for an ad published by an influencer deemed to promote and encourage excessive drinking, and which was likely to be viewed by an underage audience.
On 14 May 2023, a post on Charly Anne Collard’s social media account was published, captioned “What i [sic] eat in a day … THANKYOU CORKYS”. Ms Collard and others in the video were featured holding bottles of Corky’s, doing multiple shots, drinking straight from the bottle and playing drinking games. There were voiceovers from Ms Collard, with one stating “I love Corky’s so I was excited to do a Corky’s night out with all my faves”.
Two complainants challenged (1) whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, with the ASA additionally challenging whether the ad (2) had been appropriately targeted, (3) was irresponsible; condoning and encouraging excessive drinking as well as showing alcohol being handled and served irresponsibly, and (4) breached The UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) because it featured individuals who were, or appeared to be, under 25 years of age.
(1) Whether the ad was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication
Under the CAP Code, marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and make clear their commercial intent if not obvious from the context.
The ASA acknowledged that while the complained about video was not produced as part of Ms Collard’s agreement with Global Brands, references in the video to receiving vouchers to order food, a party bus and two bottles of vodka were considered to constitute payment. Global Brands were also considered to have a degree of editorial control over the post as it contained content from a previous paid-for post they had signed off on. The contract also stated Ms Collard could not make negative or derogatory comments towards Global Brands, with them able to have her remove such comments. It was therefore concluded that the post was an ad for the purposes of the CAP Code.
While the caption “THANKYOU CORKYS” could have indicated a commercial relationship between Ms Collard and Global Brands, this was not sufficiently clear as there were no other identifiers. The ASA concluded that the post was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
(2) Whether the ad had been appropriately targeted
The CAP Code states that no medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 25% of the audience is under 18 years of age.
Although Ms Collard’s management provided a screenshot showing her followers were largely 18-24, no data was provided for followers aged between 13-17. As users of all ages can view videos of those they do not follow on the social media platform, and its policy prohibits ads for alcohol products, it was concluded that insufficient care had been taken to ensure the ad was not directed at under-18s.
(3) Whether the ad was irresponsible as it condoned and encouraged excessive drinking, and showed alcohol being handled and served irresponsibly
Under the CAP Code marketing communications must be socially responsible and not contain anything likely to lead people to adopt unwise drinking. Alcohol being handled or served irresponsibly should also be excluded.
The ASA considered that by opening with “I grabbed myself a meal deal […] because I needed to line my stomach ready for the Corky’s night out”, Ms Collard intended to drink a significant amount of alcohol. The video depicted several scenes of people drinking Corky’s, with drinking games, shot taking and drinking straight from the bottle featuring. Even scenes which did not directly feature drinking showed images of numerous shots and bottles of Corky’s with the voiceover “Corky’s absolutely spoiled us; we got two bottles of vodka”, and “by this point we were steaming” implying excessive consumption of alcohol.
The ASA considered these scenes encouraged excessive drinking and depicted alcohol being handled and served irresponsibly.
(4) Whether the ad breached the CAP Code because it featured individuals who were, or appeared to be, under 25 years of age
Finally, two of the individuals in the ad, who were seen drinking Corky’s, were confirmed to be aged 22 and 23. The CAP Code dictates alcoholic drink ads should not show people who are under 25 years of age in a significant role.
The ASA therefore upheld the complaints and its own challenges, ruling that the ad had breached several CAP Code rules, particularly in relation to advertising alcoholic drinks.
Why this matters:
The ruling provides important reminders for brands working with influencers and/or promoting alcohol products:
- Brands can be held responsible for content produced by influencers outside of what has been agreed in the contract.
- Payment to an influencer does not have to be monetary.
- The inclusion of content that was previously agreed to meant that Global Brands was determined to have enough of a degree of control over other content advertising the brand.
- “Thank you [brand]” may indicate a commercial relationship but is not sufficient clear without other identifiers.
- Alcohol products should not be advertised where more than 25% of the audience may be under 18 years of age.
- Advertisements for alcoholic products must not feature individuals that are or appear to be under 25 years of age.
- For brands producing alcoholic products, the advertising rules are particularly strict and care should be taken not to promote excessive and irresponsible drinking.