ABAC dismisses Carlton Zero ad complaint

The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code Scheme adjudication panel yesterday dismissed a complaint about Carlton & United Breweries’ recent Carlton Zero advertisement.

The AB InBev-owned brewery in May launched a television advertisement in which it encouraged adults to switch from sugary soft drinks to its alcohol-free variant, Carlton Zero.

Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education chief executive Michael Thorn said at the time that the advertisement was “deliberately deceptive” and was effectively “an effort to groom the next generation of drinkers”.

The 15-second ad featured two men on a lunch break at work. The message to viewers was that Carlton Zero has ten times less sugar than a regular soft drink.

The anonymous complaint raised two concerns, firstly that an alcohol brand was being marketed as a light lunch drink. It also raised that Carlton Zero was being compared to a soft drink, stating it has fewer calories than an average soft drink, and could be easily misinterpreted as a soft drink.

CUB responded to the complaint in a letter saying that its intention was “to give consumers more information – not to engage in advertising which can be misinterpreted or seen as misleading”.

“Carlton Zero is a non-alcoholic beverage, and we have created it for the specific purpose of expanding the number of occasions that people can enjoy the taste of beer, without the alcohol, and without having to resort to sweet and sugary soft drinks,” the letter continued.

“We do not consider Carlton Zero to be a soft drink, and we do not refer to it as such in the relevant advertisement.

“CUB is a beer company, and Carlton Zero is a non-alcoholic beer, that also happens to be relatively low in sugar as compared to other non-alcoholic beverages, such as ‘soft drinks’, on the market.”

While the advertisement was submitted for pre-vetting, ABAC did admit that its standards, which obviously deal with responsible marketing of alcohol beverages, are to some extent “clunky” when applied to a brand extension in the form of a non-alcohol beverage.

Despite this admission, ABAC found that the Carlton Zero ad was not in breach of the Code, saying that the ad did not strongly appeal to minors or make any claims as to the product offering a therapeutic benefit.

“Even if a viewer took the ad as saying the product is a ‘non-regular’ soft drink, the ad taken as a whole is not creating a message which can be fairly said to be appealing to minors, which is the point of the ABAC standard,” ABAC said in its decision.

“Accordingly the complaint is dismissed.”

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