Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Wild Drinks Group Limited (Wild Drinks)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 17 August 2022
Law stated as at: 5 September 2022
On 17 August 2022, the ASA published its ruling against Wild Drinks in relation to several alleged breaches of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code).
The ruling centred around an Instagram post by Wild Drinks for its hard seltzer drink Whisp which featured the claim “Not sure when to crack open a Whisp? With 4% ABV, think of it as the same as drinking a beer – we’re for anytime you need a drink. Drink one, and it’s a refreshing and relaxing can. Drink loads, and you will get drunk. The only difference – you’ll be hungover from a beer, but you won’t with Whisp”.
In relation to the post, the ASA considered the following issues:
The post contained the claim “you’ll be hungover from a beer, but you won’t with Whisp”. The CAP Code prohibits claims that state or imply that a food or drink could prevent, treat or cure human disease.
The ASA considered that the symptoms of a hangover (nausea, headache, vomiting etc.) were adverse medical conditions and, therefore, that this claim breached the CAP Code as consumers would construe the claim to mean that Wild Drinks product would not cause a hangover (in comparison to other alcoholic products, particularly beer).
Encouraging excessive drinking
The ASA considered whether the ad was irresponsible because it implied that alcohol might be indispensable and encouraged excessive drinking. The CAP Code states that ads must be socially responsible and must not contain anything which could lead people to adopt unwise drinking styles.
Unsurprisingly, the ASA was of the view that ad did breach the CAP Code by promoting unwise drinking styles, particularly by positioning alcohol as a “need” (through the wording “we’re for anytime you need a drink”) and implying a reliance on alcohol and that alcohol had relaxing and therapeutic properties (for example, the wording “Drink one, and it’s a refreshing and relaxing can”). The ASA also felt that the use of the wording “Drink loads, and you will get drunk” encouraged drinking to excess and the post as a whole presented this as a positive thing.
Comparison of alcoholic strength
The ASA considered whether the claim “With 4% ABV, think of it as the same as drinking a beer” breached the CAP Code. Only nutrition claims set out in the list of authorised claims on the Great Britain nutrition and health claims register are permitted in ads promoting food or drinks. The only permitted nutrition claims for alcohol are ‘low alcohol’, ‘reduced energy’ or ‘reduced alcohol’. In relation to alcoholic strength, ads can make a factual strength comparison against a higher strength product of a similar beverage.
The ASA took the view that this claim did breach the CAP Code because a claim that a product had “as much” alcohol as another product was not one of the authorised claims.
Why this matters:
This ruling will provide a useful reminder to brands of the rules in relation to the promotion of alcoholic products to help brands to ensure that their ads stay on the right side of advertising regulation. In particular, brands should take care to ensure that the overall picture which is painted by their ad (as well as each individual claim within the ad itself) does not promote irresponsible drinking. This ruling is also a timely reminder that claims relating to the prevention or cure of hangovers are considered to be medical claims (both by the ASA and the Medicines and Healthcare products Agency).