The latest round of rulings from advertising watchdog ABAC looked at marketing communications via streamed content and also the risks of reposting influencer content.
Romsey Brewing Co. a new brewery founded in late 2020, has faced a complaint in relation to a social media video reposted to its platform.
The Instagram story shows a person sculling a 330ml bottle of Romsey’s Daily Lager with the words: “The moment when Victoria’s lockdown ends”.
A complainant said they were concerned that the advertising promotes binge drinking.
A representative from Romsey Brewing responded saying that it “has always placed the safety of its consumers and the compliance of all regulatory boards at the forefront of its operation.
“I wish to reiterate our stance on responsible drinking and the safe consumption of alcohol,” they said.
They said they “strongly disagree” with the complaint, arguing that categorising the post as ‘marketing’ is incorrect.
“We live in an era of social media whereas posting frequently is seen as ‘normal’, assuming each of these posts is linked to an underlying marketing agenda is false and not to be considered,” they said.
“Daily Lager’s social media is primarily used for community engagement, the ongoing support of our local region and the wellbeing of its followers.”
The beer brand argued that the post was a stunt performed “in a larrikin like manner by a semi-professional”, rather than paid-for advertising and that they are drinking at a pace “which they deem to be comfortable based on individuality and preference”.
It encouraged further communication with ABAC and an investigation into the origin of the complaint.
“Daily Lager also welcomes a discussion on ways to better uphold its already exemplary reputation,” it said.
ABAC responded with background saying that Daily Lager is brewed under arrangement by Holgate Brewhouse in nearby Woodend, and Romsey plans to establish a brewhouse in the town for which it’s named.
The panel acknowledged that as a small business it has limited distribution and a small marketing presence based on its social media platforms.
It said it could not purport to regulate every reference to alcohol on social media, but that posts to an alcohol company’s own social media accounts do fall into the definition of marketing communications.
The ABAC panel reiterated it and Australian Consumer Law’s stance that advertisers are responsible for third party material which is posted to social media accounts controlled by the advertiser.
It decided that a reasonable person would equate skolling a beer with rapid consumption. It said the ‘humour’ in the video derives from an assumed expectation that it is acceptable to mark a milestone with the rapid consumption of alcohol, which is inconsistent with the ABAC standard. It upheld the complaint.
Adverts during streaming content
A number of complaints related to alcohol advertising via streamed content.
The latest was against Stella Artois and Carlton Zero, which reportedly aired advertisements during on-demand TV programmes including Dance moms and Young Sheldon.
The complainant argued that “advertising beer to children is not appropriate”.
“The ads are for alcoholic beverages or a non-alcoholic version of an alcoholic beverage and this is shown during daytime hours in programming that is widely watched by children. These ads encourage drinking to an audience who are still young and impressionable.
“Furthermore, the ads are playing over and over and over again – they are extremely annoying, and it is very obvious that the advertising companies are trying to get around standards by either not specifying what Stella is, or by advertising a non-alcoholic beer and saying its ok to drink it all day,” they said.
Pre-vetting was received for the advertisements and 9Now, the channel on which the shows aired, has age restriction controls capable of excluding minors from viewing alcohol marketing.
CUB responded saying that the programmes are designed primarily for viewing by an adult audience and are classified as PG.
ABAC responded by saying that it does not regulate the frequency of advertising. It said that data supplied showed a majority adult audience for the programmes, and they were not primarily aimed at adults. It dismissed the complaint.
A complaint published earlier this month regarding Asahi’s Carlton Dry and Great Northern, as well as a number of retailers including Endeavour Drinks and the Australian Liquor Marketers also revolved around live streaming content.
The complainant argued that alcoholic was too early to show alcohol advertising to programmes aired in the morning, noting the “chains of 2-3 consecutive advertisements” during programmes such as the Sunrise programme between 6am and 9am.
The alcohol companies said that ads were not shown during traditional free-to-air television and were in fact behind age restriction controls. Asahi also suggested that the broadcast audience data confirms a majority of overage viewers to the programmes.
The ABAC panel responded by saying that there had been a ‘virtual explosion’ of streaming options available, and as a consequence, regulatory regimes aimed at a particular channel “can become strained”.
Age restriction controls had thus become a requirement, and where that was not possible, alcohol ads can only be placed during programmes where the audience is expected to be at least 75 per cent adults, and not within content primarily aimed at minors.
It dismissed the complaint, but recommended that the “interplay between the different technologies be considered when the ABAC Placement Rules are next reviewed”.
A complaint regarding another Instagram story, this time from Boozeit.com, an online liquor delivery business.
It portrayed a needle entering a vaccine vial bottle, which was superimposed with a Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey logo.
The ABAC panel said it was inconsistent with its standards, not because the post would be taken as seriously advocating that people inject whiskey, but because the post’s humour indicates that it is common to self-medicate with alcohol to deal with stressful situations. It upheld the complaint.
It dismissed a complaint against The Star Sydney, Australia’s second-largest casino over a train station billboard.
The complainant said “The Star Casino is trying to de-escalate people’s mindsets on the seriousness of COVID” but the ABAC panel ruled that the marketing did not suggest irresponsible alcohol consumption patterns.
Vacay Seltzer meanwhile received a complaint about some of its Instagram posts featuring people drinking the seltzer while in a pool.
The ABAC panel upheld the complaint, saying that it breached rules which prevent the portrayal of alcohol consumption during an activity requiring a high degree of alertness or physical coordination like swimming.