ABAC warns against ‘milkshake’ in latest findings

Pirate Life Iced Coffee Milkshake

ABAC has warned against the use of the term ‘milkshake’ for alcoholic beverages.

It made the comments in a ruling in which it dismissed a complaint about the branding and decal of Pirate Life’s Iced Coffee Milkshake due to its availability.

In a complaint to the watchdog, an unnamed individual argued that the name and branding of the beer associates it with a ‘soft drink’, specifically naming Farmers Union Iced Coffee, which they said was “as popular as Coke in South Australia”. They said that this could imply a strong appeal to minors, which is banned under the ABAC code.

Pirate Life responded by saying that the Iced Coffee Milkshake was a limited edition brew, only available on-premise in keg format. It refuted that the beverage’s badge or logo had any resemblance to the Farmers Union Iced Coffee mentioned by the complainant.

Pirate Life Farmers Union

It also disputed that soft drinks or coffee milk beverages hold a strong appeal to minors, saying they are marketed to adults and are intended to be consumed by adults. “‘Coffee’ is an inherently adult flavour,” it said.

Pirate Life also argued that the advertisements for the beverage show no animations, imagery, or cartoon characters that could appeal to minors or create confusion with soft drinks.

The ABAC panel agreed with Pirate Life in that as the branding can only be found on a tap badge in the company’s Adelaide brewpub, it would be obvious to a reasonable person that it related to a style of beer.

It did say that this branding on a can in a retail outlet would be far more ‘problematic’, and that the use of the term ‘milkshake’ in that setting would be considered a breach of the standard relating to minors, noting previous determinations made regarding the term.

It found that the Instagram post promoting the beverage was in breach of the code, as the prominence of ‘iced coffee milkshake’ makes it less obvious that the drink is alcoholic. While conceding that milkshake is becoming a well-known style in the beer world, a reasonable person would assume its use in marketing related to a non-alcoholic drink, ABAC said.

It explained that while the Instagram post could be considered to be appealing to minors, the branding and name of the beverage, located only in the company’s brewery, meant that it removes the likelihood of confusion with a soft drink, and the appeal of a ‘milkshake’ to minors in that context does not arise. As such, it dismissed the branding and name-related complaints.

Another ruling concerned a Pirate Life’s Social Lube beer, encompassing its name, packaging and a social media post for the beer.

Pirate Life Social Lube ABAC

Pre-vetting was not received for the Riesling Pilsner beer, a collaboration between Riot Wine Co and Pirate Life, both based in SA and owned by Carlton and United Breweries.

The complainant was concerned that the beer and related social media post imply that consuming the product will result in a change of mood or contribute to social success – “as ‘Social Lubricant” is a common saying for anything (alcohol, weed, speed dating) that allows people to interact more comfortably in social situations,” they said.

Part of the ABAC code prescribes that marketing must not suggest that the consumption or presence of alcohol may contribute to a significant change in mood or environment, or show that it is a cause of, or contributes to, the achievement of personal, business, social, sporting sexual or other success.

CUB responded by late November, rejecting the complainant’s claims.

It said that nothing in the name, packaging or social media post implies or states that the product would contribute to mood change or social success.

“The name and packaging of Social Lube is not intended to imply [this] rather it acknowledges the product as being ‘incidental to a friendly and lively social environment’.”

“The product is a nod to the experience of sharing a beverage with friends in a social situation,” Pirate Life said.

It said the packaging has a “demure” colour scheme and the social media post copy did not support the view that the product would change consumers’ mood or environment.

ABAC responded by saying that while marketing and packaging of a product can be included as one of a number of reasons for a change in mood or “the achievement of success”, it must not be considered the main reason for it.

It admitted that the standards are “broadly drawn” but ultimately decided that the product name was in breach of the standard, as ‘social lubrication’ can reasonably be understood to suggest a substance which assists social situations by ensuring interactions occur more easily.

The ABAC panel said that this indicated that the product would be considered less incidental to a social setting, and more of a contributor to the success of a social encounter.

Pirate Life co-founder Jack Cameron indicated that the beer was not going to be an ongoing product from the brand going forward.

“We loved making the beer with our mates at Riot and it was only ever meant to be a one-off. We had always planned to try something different in 2020, pushing the boundaries of what beer and wine can be,” he said in a statement to Brews News.

This was the latest in a number of complaints made to ABAC regarding Pirate Life beers and marketing, the most recent regarding social media posts from 2014 and 2015.

A complaint against a BrewDog YouTube video from the UK, a tweet from co-founder James Watt and copy on its US website were also considered by an ABAC panel. However the panel said the marketing communications in question do not fall within its jurisdiction due to them being published outside Australia, and said it had no authority to make a decision. The complaints were dismissed.

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