Advertising watchdog ABAC has found against WA brewer Cheeky Monkey in relation to a complaint about its social media.
The complaint concerned posts on Instagram by Cheeky Monkey Brewing Co, which showed a man sitting in a car which was apparently at a standstill, drinking a beer.
The unnamed complainant objected to the ad, saying it could be seen to be encouraging drink driving.
The code restricts the portrayal of alcohol consumption and high risk activities or those that require a high degree of alertness or physical coordination, like driving.
Cheeky Money promptly responded to ABAC saying it had removed the Instagram and Facebook posts.
ABAC acknowledged that there were varied laws across Australia when it came to the legal position of someone drinking alcohol or being over the legal limit in a stationary vehicle.
However it said that considering that even though the car is not in motion and with only the one person in it sitting in the driver’s seat, there is “little doubt” that the man drinking the product would be regarded as in control of the vehicle.
ABAC upheld the complaint, noting that Cheeky Monkey did not mount any arguments defending the posts.
In additional rulings, bottle shops, supermarkets and a gin brand faced the panel.
Liquor retailers Dan Murphy’s and Aldi received some unusual complaints against them, which were subsequently rejected by the ABAC panel. A more in-depth ruling on a gin brand Mother’s Milk prompted the watchdog to discuss the etymology of the term, but ultimately found no wrongdoing.
A complainant went all in with their opposition to gin brand Mother’s Milk, criticising its name, packaging and website.
The complainant said all were “inappropriate and irresponsible” as they associated an alcohol product with breastfeeding and failed “to positively support breastfeeding”. The complainant also pointed out that there were no age restrictions in place on the Mother’s Milk website.
The ABAC code stipulates that marketing cannot encourage “irresponsible or offensive behaviour that is related to the consumption or presence of alcohol”.
Mother’s Milk said it had brought in Craft & Co to help with its marketing and business model and that its name was registered and approved by ASIC and the Victorian liquor licensing authorities. They said they were not aware of a pre-vetting service for ABAC.
It said its lack of age restrictions was due to a “critical” website crash, and was now reinstated.
Mother’s Milk founders also refuted the claims relating to breastfeeding.
“At no point are we referring to breast milk or breast feeding – this business name is a tribute to our late mother’s [sic] both of who used this phrase so as a result, we named the business as a tribute to their memories,” they said in their response to ABAC.
The ABAC panel highlighted the ‘renaissance’ of gin in recent years, and the beverage’s historic link in England to mothers. It highlighted the more common usage of ‘Mother’s Ruin” when describing gin.
The panel said that it does not believe that the Mother’s Milk name itself is in breach as the term ‘mother’s milk’ is used colloquially and has a wide variety of usages.
A reasonable person would assume that the packaging was demeaning to the practice of breastfeeding or encouraging irresponsible behaviour such as consuming alcohol while breastfeeding, it said, and dismissed the complaint in relation to the gin’s name.
It upheld the complaint in relation to an age gate on its website, saying that the company had admitted there was a time when they had no age restrictions in place.
Dan Murphy’s received a complaint about its Victorian digital catalogue, which placed lower abv or no alcohol beers including Carlton Zero under a “moderation” subheading.
The complainant said the advert was irresponsible because it included alcohol available in ‘multiples’ like cartons, under the heading “moderation”.
The unnamed person also suggested that the use of check marks similar to the Heart Foundation approval tick for mid-strength and organic products was irresponsible.
Dan Murphy’s responded saying the beers included in the advert were there because they all contain a lower alcohol by volume in comparison to full-strength beers which contain at least 4.8% abv. It said that if anything, it was emphasising the beers’ lower alcohol strength, which is permitted under the code.
It also disagreed with the idea that tick badges it included were related or looked anything like those of the Heart Foundation.
ABAC ruled that any reasonable person would realise that ‘moderation’ referred to the strength of the beers in the section relative to others, and would understand that the use of the tick mark was, in their words, “usual advertising puffery”.
The complaint was dismissed.
Aldi was on the receiving end of a complaint about various alcohol products in its catalogue, in an unusual complaint in which the petitioner suggested that Aldi was encouraging the buying of alcohol for “romantic purposes”.
“[Aldi’s ad] suggests it is a good idea to buy alcohol for romantic purposes, when there is nothing romantic about being with someone who has been drinking, nor regrets of accepting sexual advances that otherwise would not have been agreed to,” according to the complainant.
Part of the ABAC code stipulates that retailers must not encourage irresponsible or offensive behaviour related to alcohol or that marketing cannot show alcohol to be a contributing factor in the achievement of social or sexual success.
Aldi, which is not a signatory of the Code, responded saying there was nothing irresponsible about a couple enjoying alcohol one a “date night” and requested a dismissal of the complaint.
ABAC agreed with Aldi’s perception of the case, saying that it would be a “common experience” for couples to enjoy alcohol on a date night, and it was not its role to prohibit the presence of alcohol portrayed in social settings generally.
“What is not permitted is the suggestion that alcohol is needed to make a date successful or that alcohol be used to induce a sexual encounter,” the panel said.
The advertisement is a passive depiction of unopened bottles, and doesn’t imply any particular level of consumption, it said, and the complaint was dismissed.