ABAC eyes advertising placements


Recent ABAC adjudications have highlighted issues around advertising placement and raised discussions over the definition of marketing communication. 

Archie Rose Distilling Co. and Endeavour Group faced adjudication panels over advertisement placement of their products. 

Carlton & United Breweries and Bridge Road Brewers were subjects of complaints over packaging appealing to minors. 

Archie Rose Distilling Co. 

The complaint against Archie Rose Distilling Co’s Single Malt Whisky came after an advertisement promoting the product appeared during Qantas Inflight Entertainment.

The complainant said the advertisement appeared prior to an episode of popular children’s show Bluey, therefore appealing to minors through breach of ABAC’s placement rules. 

The complainant also stated that the show was accessed through a children’s account of the inflight entertainment. 

Placement rules means that marketing communication must comply with relevant codes regulating the placement of alcohol marketing. 

The company responded to the complaint and said that the matter was escalated to Qantas and advertising company oOh! Media.

oOh! Media advised that it has a workflow in place to prevent advertisements being assigned to children’s content however, in this instance, was assigned by accident.

It also noted that this was the first time this has happened and apologised for the error. 

“oOh! has had the IFE contract with Qantas since 2018 and this is the first time something like this has happened,” the company said. 

“We have processes in place that ensure this doesn’t happen at our end as do the 3rd Party, but it seems that in this isolated instance there was human error.

“Please accept our deepest apologies, we take these situations extremely seriously as do Qantas and we will do everything we can to ensure this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”

The ABAC panel agreed that placement rules had been breached due to the failure of applying age restriction controls, placement where the audience is expected to be less than 75 per cent adults and within a program aimed at minors. 

It subsequently upheld the complaint but noted the company’s response to ensure the mistake is avoided in future. 

Third party advert placements have been a growing issue before ABAC, with Carlton & United Breweries facing a panel regarding a similar complaint over its “Ode to the Pub” advertisement playing during a YouTube video last year.

Endeavour Group & Uber Eats 

Endeavour Group’s BWS was the subject of a complaint over the placement of its products on Uber Eats’ website. 

A complainant argued that displaying alcohol products on the website appealed to minors, as it can be placed next to products specifically geared towards minors. 

“Surely it can’t be legal for Uber Eats to just list alongside Allen’s lollies and similar alcoholic beverages like those sold at BWS and similar?,” the complaint read. 

“I have suffered from alcohol abuse before and it is really discouraging to find that just ordering food results in me being subject to having to resist alcohol advertising. 

“I really would like a response as to how it is considered appropriate for McDonald’s to be suggested alongside wine, beer and spirits in Australia where Alcohol is a significant contribution to societal harm.”

Endeavour responded to the complaint arguing that the website should not be considered as marketing communication, as it displays images and names of products, rather than promoting them. 

It also noted that the positioning of BWS products on the website is not in the company’s control and is based on factors such as purchasing history and location. 

The Uber Eats platform also has an 18+ policy, where all account holders must be over the age of 18. While anyone may view a product without being logged in, users are unable to make an alcoholic purchase through the website, unless they are logged in. 

Uber Eats’ response to the complaint elaborated on this, noting that logged in users may also choose to have alcoholic products excluded. 

Before reaching its decision, the ABAC panel said this was “a complicated and technical decision”, highlighting the evolving landscape of alcohol marketing. 

The panel rejected both Uber Eats and Endeavour’s arguments of the website not being marketing communication, noting that websites are a core aspect of marketing material, as it ultimately promotes products through its imagery and copy.  

“It displays attractive and set piece photographs of the available food and products clearly aimed to depict the products in a favorable light,” the panel said. 

“It can contain discounts or offers on products. It provides a more than factual description of products – for instance the section showing wines is headed ‘Wines for any occasion’.”

The panel however, concluded that the website does not breach the ABAC code or its placement rules, stating that the likely audience of the website is over 75 per cent adults and is not aimed primarily at minors.

Carlton & United Breweries

Carlton & United Breweries has faced an ABAC panel over a complaint regarding a Christmas-themed Victoria Bitter t-shirt, which was available to purchase through online clothing store, Uncle Reco. 

The shirt had a caricature of an anthropomorphised VB can sitting on Santa Claus’ knee, with the caption ‘You can get it sittin’. 

The complainant argued that the shirt had breached part 3 of the ABAC code, which states that marketing collateral must not appeal to minors. 

The company responded to the complaint by stating the t-shirt was not manufactured by CUB and that the design was submitted by Uncle Reco, as part of the licensing agreement between both companies. 

CUB acknowledged that its internal approval process “had not been followed correctly”, leading to the t-shirt being manufactured. 

“This design is clearly inappropriate and would not have been approved if it had gone through the correct internal approvals process,” the statement read. 

“As soon as we received this complaint and realised the error the product was pulled from sale and destroyed, and all references to it have been removed from Uncle Reco social channels.”

The ABAC panel agreed and upheld the complaint, stating that a reasonable person would view the t-shirt as having strong appeal to minors.

Bridge Road Brewers 

Bridge Road Brewers’ Craft Beer Christmas Countdown Advent Calendar has been the subject of a complaint over its packaging. 

The complaint stated the packaging had appealed to minors, due to the “brightly coloured and cartoon-style design and artwork” and association with advent calendars, which was argued to be a children’s product. 

It also argued that the product had encouraged excessive consumption of alcohol, as well as during activities that require high levels of alertness. 

Despite being forwarded the complaint, Bridge Road declined to respond, which was met with criticism by the panel. 

“The Company’s refusal to properly co-operate with the complaints process speaks poorly of its commitment to corporate responsibility,” it said. 

The ABAC panel noted that while the origin of advent calendars started with chocolate, it has evolved with many companies today utilising the format for other products, including alcohol

It also said that it is open for any alcohol company to use an advent calendar themed product, as long as it is consistent with ABAC standards.

With this in mind, the panel dismissed the complaint stating that a reasonable person would not view the packaging as appealing to minors or displaying excessive consumption of alcohol. 

Back to News