ABAC advises breweries to audit social media


Alcohol advertising watchdog ABAC has advised companies to go back and scrutinise their their past digital marketing postings in light of recent rulings.

In the past quarter, ABAC has ruled on a number of complaints about social media posts which were up to five years old.

As a result, it advised breweries and other alcohol companies to audit their entire digital marketing presence, “particularly when purchasing a new brand,” it said.

This is a reference to Pirate Life, now owned by CUB. The South Australian brewery has been the subject of a number of complaints in recent months, far outstripping the number against any other brand.

Pirate Life was responsible for seven of the breaches of the code which ABAC ruled on in the last quarter of 2019.

This included one in which ABAC warned against the use of the term ‘milkshake’ in relation to alcoholic beverages, as it could imply a strong or evident appeal to minors, it said.

Last month ABAC’s Adjudication Panel made judgements relating to complaints about two YouTube videos published on its official account in 2014 and 2015, well before it was acquired by CUB in 2017.

At the same time, BrewDog faced its first complaints to the watchdog, in relation to posts between 12 and 19 months old. It removed the posts in question, which were published prior to its official launch in Australia with the opening of DogTap Brisbane.

According to the ABAC code there is no statute of limitations on historic social media posts and their vulnerability to complaints and judgements.

Overall, the final quarter of 2018 saw the highest level of determinations and breaches in ABAC’s history, with the vast majority of these breaches relating to social media marketing.

This follows the previous quarter, in which ABAC reported that it had received more complaints in the previous three months than it usually did in a year.

The most recent quarter has beaten those records. 27 complaints were made in that quarter, but only 13 were determined.

36 determinations were made in the most recent quarter.

Of these, 22 were upheld as breaches of the code. ABAC noted that in all but one case the breach decisions related to marketing which was not pre-vetted by the scheme.

Over the time period, 685 pieces of marketing were pre-vetted, it said.

In addition to its warnings regarding historic social media, a forward, ostensibly by ABAC chair Harry Jenkins, highlighted the number of packaging complaints it had received.

Five of these complaints resulted in breaches, and Jenkins encouraged all alcohol marketers to become familiar with the organisation’s alcohol packaging compliance guide.

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