ABAC upholds complaints about historic social posts

BrewDog instagram ABAC 2

The passage of time is no bar to breaches of the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code with the Adjudication Panel asked to rule on historic social media posts from BrewDog and Pirate Life.

Complaints related to two YouTube videos published on the Pirate Life official account in 2014 and 2015, well before it was acquired by CUB in 2017. The second was related to an Instagram post dated April 2018.

The complaints against BrewDog related to Instagram posts which were 12 and 19 months old respectively.

There is no time limit on historic posts, according to the ABAC code, although the latest wave of rulings highlight the need for retrospective compliance from the alcohol industry.

In BrewDog’s first brush with alcohol advertising standards in Australia, ABAC upheld complaints concerning Instagram posts published by the brewery’s Australian account while it was still planning the launch of its first venue in the country.

The complainant argued that one of the adverts, for its 41% abv Sink the Bismark beer, emphasised the beer’s high alcohol content as a motivator to buy it.

The second gripe related to a separate Instagram post which the complainant insisted could show alcohol as a mood enhancer and a “source of motivation” through its use of #mondaymotivation and similar hashtags.

The ABAC code stipulates that marketers cannot encourage consumers to choose a particular product by emphasising its alcohol strength, or suggest that the consumption or presence of alcohol can significantly change mood or environment.

BrewDog responded, noting that the posts were 12 months and 19 months old with very few views. However it removed the posts on the day that ABAC notified it of the complaint.

BrewDog instagram ABAC

ABAC said that even though the posts were removed, it believed the Sink the Bismarck post was a breach of the code, not because of its alcohol content fundamentally, but the fact that this was used as a reason for consumers to buy it.

It also upheld the complaint about the ‘Monday Blues’ post, saying the advertisement clearly suggested that the consumption of alcohol would improve or otherwise change the consumer’s mood.

Pirate Life rulings

Pirate Life has also faced complaints about social media posts which were several years old.

The complaints related to two YouTube videos which were published in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the first a ‘tutorial’ on how to shotgun a beer, which includes video footage of a man unsuccessfully attempting to shotgun a beer, and the second shows a road trip undertaken by two Pirate Life brewers.

The third post was an Instagram post dated April 2018 showing a Pirate Life beer being poured into a man’s mouth (pictured).

Pirate Life ad ABAC

The complainant argued that the posts show excessive consumption or misuse of alcohol, and in the case of the road trip video, linked drinking alcohol and driving, both of which are banned under ABAC.

Pirate Life responded, agreeing that the shotgun tutorial and 2018 Instagram post “do constitute clear breaches and have been removed accordingly”.

However in relation to its road trip YouTube video it disagreed with the complaints, saying there is no depiction of rapid or excessive consumption of alcohol and that the “overall tenor” of the video depicts Pirate Life’s brewers consuming alcohol responsibly.

It also stated that in South Australia, the filming location of the video, there is no explicit prohibition of the consumption of alcohol in a vehicle with a passenger, and there is no indication that the designated driver is drinking.

CUB also noted the historic nature of the posts, and said they are not presently promoted or used to advertise the brand in any way.

ABAC conceded that while there is an instance of drinking in a vehicle and a game of beer pong shown, it does not give the overall impression of excessive drinking, and therefore dismissed the complaint in relation to the disputed post, while upholding the two that Pirate Life had already removed.

Two other advertisements faced the ABAC panel last month.

A BWS advertisement flown from a helicopter on 2nd November in a round trip between Maroubra and Palm Beach which advertised $10 Byron Bay Brewery six packs was lambasted by a complainant who said it was “outrageous that alcohol advertising (or any advertising) can be dragged along our beaches – in full view of children.

“Blatant low socioeconomic targeting,” the complainant said.

BWS responded that as it was outdoor advertisement, not all placement rules apply, and that the advertisement could not be seen within a sightline of a primary or secondary school, in compliance with policies from the Outdoor Media Association.

ABAC said that “marketing of this type is reasonably unusual” and it was the first time it had ever received a complaint about advertising being towed from an aircraft.

As there were no ABAC standards or placement rules for a situation like this, no ABAC provision had been breached, and the complaint was dismissed.

A final complaint concerned an outdoor advertisement inside a Sydney Light Rail train made by Uber-style alcohol delivery company Tipple, for which pre-vetting approval was received.

The complainant said that public transport is used by children and that “his child started laughing about the cartoon style advertisements”.

However the ABAC panel investigating disagreed, and said that any drawn characters are adult in depiction, do not have strong messaging which could appeal to under-18-year-olds, and that there are not any relevant placement restrictions on advertisements on a bus or a train.

The complaint was dismissed.

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