ABAC rules on Little Fat Lamb and Pirate Life complaints

Pirate Life take 2

A complaint that a social media post by Pirate Life Brewing linked drinking and a “high risk activity” has been upheld by ABAC this week.

The ruling was in relation to an Instagram post on its company page which the complainant argued showed a photo which “creates a connotation between drinking and swimming in the open water”.

The complainant contended that swimming in open water is a “high risk activity” and should not be associated with alcohol consumption.

In it’s response to the complaint, CUB agreed that the image breached the code with regards to alcohol safety, and removed it from social media channels.

“CUB is committed to ensuring our promotional and marketing material, and that of our associated entities such as Pirate Life, does not promote or encourage any irresponsible consumption of alcohol.

“We are disappointed that in this instance, CUB’s usual level of scrutiny and rigour was not applied to our marketing communications. We are taking steps to ensure this will not be repeated in the future,” it said in a statement to ABAC.

The ABAC panel upheld the complaint, saying that although consumption of the product is not actually shown, and no one is seen physically drinking from the can, it was inconsistent with the code.

Pirate Life has been referred to ABAC before, most recently in a decision relating to a collaboration brew with snowboarding company Burton,although at the time the panel judged that there was no depiction of drinking before or during engaging in the sport.

Last year it was also forced to remove social media posts in which a child was depicted with a Pirate Life tattoo, which a complainant said amounted to targeting alcohol advertising at children.

In addition to the ruling on Pirate Life, an alcoholic drink adorned with rainbows and uni-horned sheep, Little Fat Lamb Fantasy, faced the panel last week.

The complainant argued that it used imagery, designs and cartoon characters likely to appeal strongly to minors, and could easily be confused with a soft drink.

Despite brand owner Drink Craft Pty Ltd’s assertions that the drink was “heavily indexed with statements” relating to its alcohol content, its brown container, and packaging which set it apart from non-alcoholic energy drinks, ABAC upheld the complaint.

The panel said that it was the third determination made by them concerning Little Fat Lamb – previously it has made rulings in relation to its cider range.

ABAC also said that the complainant referred to rulings from the Portman Group, a similar system to the ABAC packaging code but based in the UK. ABAC said that while they may have similar aims to the Portman Group and other western marketing standards frameworks, direct comparison with other alcohol advertising regimes internationally is difficult, and cannot have a direct impact on issues raised in Australia.

ABAC made a point of highlighting considerations it takes into account when determining whether a product could conceivably appeal to minors, which included colours, imagery, language and overall messaging, whether adult themes are used, product name and container, and a combination of all these elements together.

It upheld the complaint.

In other rulings, a 16 year old apparently complained to the watchdog that an advertisement for products available at Coles-owned Liquorland was placed on Spotify.

Coles said that it takes its alcohol advertising obligations very seriously and that it had, through advertising agency OMD, targeted its adverts at the 25-54 age range. It said it was investigating how Spotify’s age restrictions had failed to operate, and had ceased advertising with the platform until it could substantiate age restriction controls.

ABAC made a ruling of a no-fault breach, as Coles had carried out its obligations and the breach was as a result of issues outside its control.

Another related to Curatif Cocktails’ brand name and Facebook page, which a complainant suggested implied that the alcoholic products being advertised could provide a medical cure.

Curatif argued that its name was a portmanteau of ‘curated’ and ‘apertif’ and not related to the French word meaning medicinal or curative.

ABAC said that the company had removed the Facebook posts on its page and “it was correct to do so” as it could be reasonably understood to be making claims about the benefits of consuming alcohol.

However ABAC did not uphold the complaint in regards to the Curatif brand name, as it is not on its own a breach and would not automatically be understood to be making assertions about its therapeutic benefits.

The final ruling was in relation to an email communication from the Ainslie Football and Social Club on behalf of the Gungahlin Lakes Golf Club in Canberra offering “cheap beer” during the 2019 AFL and Rugby League final series. ABAC said the complainant presumably believed this may lead to excessive alcohol consumption, ABAC does not presume to regulate the price of alcohol .

It said that while moderately priced beer was used as a selling point, a reasonable person would not interpret the email as saying that it is acceptable to consume alcohol excessively. The complaint was dismissed.

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